Thousands of Iraqis joined on Saturday the formal funeral in Baghdad for the Iranian prominent military leader Qassem Soleimani, who was killed last Friday near Baghdad’s international airport in an airstrike ordered by US President Donald Trump
Soleimani was the head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force and the mastermind of its regional influence in the Middle East.
The mourners were dressed in black and holding the Iraqi flags and the flags of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) while chanting against the US and calling for revenge.
Soleimani was targeted along with Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, Iraqi commander of the PMF, and six others. The attack came just a few days after the PMF attempted to storm the US embassy in Baghdad, in response to the US air attacks that targeted one of the Shiite militias in the PMF.
The PMF announced on Saturday that additional airstrikes targeted Al-Taji camp, north Baghdad, and caused murder of six people and wounding three others. But a few hours later, the Iraqi army and the PMF itself denied that the US had carried out any air strikes on the medical convoy in Taji.
The US alliance for combating the Islamic State group (IS) in Iraq denied also launching any attacks on the region in the past few days.
Following the murder of Soleimani, Tehran vowed to respond to the US aggression in all the “Muslim World.” Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned the US of “harsh retaliation.”
Moreover, the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javed Zarif, tweeted: “The US’ act of international terrorism, targeting & assassinating General Soleimani – The most effective force fighting Daesh (ISIS), Al Nusrah, Al Qaeda et al – is extremely dangerous & a foolish escalation.”
“The US bears responsibility for all consequences of its rogue adventurism.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, who participated in the funeral, condemned the US attack, calling it an “aggression” on Iraqi sovereignty that would “spark a devastating war.”
In a statement, Abdul Mahdi said that “the assassination of an Iraqi military commander is an aggression on Iraq as a state, government, and people.”
“Carrying out physical liquidation operations against leading Iraqi figures or from a brotherly country on the Iraqi lands is a flagrant violation of Iraq’s sovereignty and a dangerous escalation that triggers a destructive war in Iraq, the region and the world,” he added.
Meanwhile, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed his deep concerns over the recent updates in the Middle East, according to a statement by his spokesperson.
“The secretary-general has consistently advocated for de-escalation in the Gulf. This is a moment in which leaders must exercise maximum restraint. The world cannot afford another war in the Gulf,” read the statement.
US President Trump tweeted; “General Qassem Soleimani has killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more…but got caught! He was directly and indirectly responsible for the death of millions of people, including the recent large number of protestors killed in Iran itself.”
“NATO is monitoring the situation in the region very closely. We remain in close and regular contact with the US authorities,” spokesman of the alliance Dylan White said in media statements.
He added that “At the request of the Iraqi government, NATO’s training mission in the country is helping to strengthen the Iraqi forces and prevent the return of ISIS.”
Russia, United Kingdom, Germany, Turkey, and France issued statements over the assassination of Soleimani warning that the US move would increase tensions across the Middle East, urging all parties to de-escalate.
China urged the relevant sides, especially the US, to remain calm and exercise restraint to avoid further escalating tensions, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the assassination of Soleimani saying that the US had the right to defend itself by killing Soleimani.
Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also issued a statement expressing concerns over the situation in Iraq and calling for de-escalating the situation.
Military movements linked to Iran including the Lebanese Hezbollah Party, Palestinian Hamas movement, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) group and the Yemeni Ansar Allah movement “Houthis” condemned the assassination of Soleimani and offered condolences to Iran.