Iraqi Shia leaders have gathered in the capital Baghdad after a US drone strike killed one of Iran’s top generals and a senior Iraqi militia leader, raising fears of military escalation in the region. 3rd anniversary.
On January 3, 2020, Qasem Suleimani, commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was killed at Baghdad International Airport on orders from former President Donald Trump.
He was hailed as a hero in Iran, brave, charismatic, and loved by the military.
Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy head of Iraq’s Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces, was also killed in the strike.
Thousands of mourners joined Iraqi officials at a rally near Baghdad’s airport on Monday night.
Their killings have heightened tensions in the region and pushed the US and Iran to the brink of war.
Officials in the capital unveiled new statues of Suleimani and Al-Muhandis near the airport to commemorate the killings, as posters of the dead men were kept by mourners.
Candles were lit with people waving Iraqi and Iranian flags near the airport.
The Iraqi parliament has denied that Tuesday is an official holiday, but the southern provinces of Baghdad, Basra, Wasit, Diqar, Muthanna and Diwaniyah have announced official holidays to mark the occasion.
Other Shia-majority states are also expected to join in and suspend formal working hours. But the Sunni-majority northern states ignore the day.
Iraqi militia leaders, including Iran-backed militia chief Hadi al-Amiri and Asaib al-Al-Haq’s Qais Al-Khazali, have called for an end to the US presence in Iraq.
Former Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi visited the tomb of al-Muhandis in the southern Shia holy city of Najaf on Sunday.
His grave attracts Shiites who vow revenge on the United States. Al-Muhandis was the leader of the Iran-backed Iraqi militia Kataib Hezbollah.
He was Suleimani’s top Iraqi chief of staff and was widely known in Baghdad as the Man of Tehran.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amiravdrahian pledged on Monday to continue efforts to achieve “justice for the perpetrators of the assassination of Americans.”
Amira Bdrahian said Iran would cooperate with Iraq in the investigation.
“All the paperwork has been completed, but the final paperwork required is an acknowledgment and official declaration from the Iraqi government that General Soleimani was an official guest in Iraq,” he said.
Suleimani was in charge of Iran’s foreign operations and traveled frequently between Iraq, Lebanon and Syria.
Updated: Jan 3, 2023, 7:49 AM