Iraqis, including supporters of Hashid Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces), hold placards as they gather to mark the one year anniversary of the killing of senior Iranian military commander General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in a U.S. attack, in Baghdad, Iraq
Iraqis hold placards as they mark the one-year anniversary of the killing of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in Baghdad, Iraq
Photo: Reuters
Iraqis hold placards as they mark the one-year anniversary of the killing of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in Baghdad, Iraq

Rally in Baghdad marks 1 year since Iran general’s killing

Roads closed off and security tightened as crowds gather in response to a call by powerful Iran-backed militias for a rally in Iraqi capital marking death of Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani in a U.S. airstrike, demanding the expulsion of U.S. troops from Iraq

Associated Press |
Published: 01.03.21 , 20:27
Chanting anti-American slogans, thousands of Iraqis converged on a landmark square in central Baghdad on Sunday to commemorate the anniversary of the killing of a powerful Iranian general and a top Iraqi militia leader in a U.S. drone strike.
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  • Roads leading to Tahrir Square were closed off and security was tight as the crowds gathered in response to a call by powerful Iran-backed militias for a rally marking the occasion and demanding the expulsion of U.S. troops from Iraq.
    Iraqis, including supporters of Hashid Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces), hold placards as they gather to mark the one year anniversary of the killing of senior Iranian military commander General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in a U.S. attack, in Baghdad, Iraq Iraqis, including supporters of Hashid Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces), hold placards as they gather to mark the one year anniversary of the killing of senior Iranian military commander General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in a U.S. attack, in Baghdad, Iraq
    Iraqis hold placards as they mark the one-year anniversary of the killing of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in Baghdad, Iraq
    (Photo: Reuters)
    “No, no to America!” shouted some in the largely mask-less crowd. “You killed our guest. There is no place here for your embassy,” read some of the banners.
    Protesters at one point set fire to a large U.S. flag, drawing cheers from the crowd.
    The killing of Gen. Qassim Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis at Baghdad’s airport pushed Tehran and Washington perilously close to all-out conflict and sparked outrage in Iraq, leading parliament to pass a non-binding resolution days later calling for the expulsion of all foreign troops from Iraq.
    Sunday's rally was being held amid heightened tensions between Iran and the U.S. in the final days of President Donald Trump’s administration.
    Already, America has conducted B-52 bomber flyovers and sent a nuclear submarine into the Persian Gulf over what Trump officials describe as the possibility of an Iranian attack on the anniversary of the strike that killed Soleimani and al-Muhandis.
    Supporters of the Popular Mobilization Forces hold a poster of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of the Popular Mobilization Forces, front, and General Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran's Quds force during a protest, in Tahrir Square, Iraq Supporters of the Popular Mobilization Forces hold a poster of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of the Popular Mobilization Forces, front, and General Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran's Quds force during a protest, in Tahrir Square, Iraq
    Supporters of the PMF hold a poster of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis Qassem Soleimani in Tahrir Square, Iraq
    (Photo: AP)
    Carrying Iraqi and militia flags and posters of the two men, thousands of Iraqis marched toward Tahrir Square for the rally Sunday, demanding the withdrawal of U.S. troops in implementation of the parliamentary resolution. The event was organized by mostly Iran-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces.
    “We call upon the government and the parliament to expel the occupying foreign forces, especially the brutal American forces, the infidels, the immorals, who killed the heroes and leaders of victory,” said Muhammad Shubr al-Husseini, a protester.
    Abbas Ali, a 27-year-old protester carrying a poster of Soleimani, said he was there because it was a day “to remember those who sacrificed their souls for Iraq.”
    Soleimani headed the elite Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, responsible for the Islamic Republic’s foreign operations, and he frequently shuttled between Iraq, Lebanon and Syria. Al-Muhandis was Iraq's most powerful militia leader and was deputy commander of the PMF.
    They both gained prominence for advising Shi'ite paramilitary forces fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq, before it was defeated in 2017.
    Members of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and their supporters chant slogans against the United States at Baghdad's international airport on Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021, for the anniversary of the killing of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of the PMF, and Gen. Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran's Quds Force in a U.S. airstrike Members of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and their supporters chant slogans against the United States at Baghdad's international airport on Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021, for the anniversary of the killing of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of the PMF, and Gen. Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran's Quds Force in a U.S. airstrike
    Members of the PMF and their supporters chant slogans against the United States at Baghdad's international airport for the anniversary of the killing of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Gen. Qassem Soleimani in a U.S. airstrike
    (Photo: AP)
    Their killing dramatically ratcheted up tensions in the region and brought the U.S. and Iran to the brink of war. Iran hit back by firing a barrage of ballistic missiles at two Iraqi bases housing U.S. troops, some of whom suffered concussions. Iranian officials have suggested that more retaliation is coming.
    On Saturday night, thousands of people took part in a commemoration ceremony held at Baghdad's airport where the strike took place a year ago.
    Mourners, many of them members of the PMF, joined a march on the highway leading to the airport. Posters of the dead men adorned both sides of the road, which was lined with tents that served food and drinks for those who walked the highway.
    The scene of the bombing was turned into a shrine-like area sealed off by red ropes, with a photo of Soleimani and al-Muhandis in the middle, as mourners lit candles. Shrapnel marks were still visible on the asphalt and concrete blast walls in the area.
    Aftermath of U.S. strike that killed Qassem SoleimaniAftermath of U.S. strike that killed Qassem Soleimani
    Aftermath of U.S. strike that killed Qassem Soleimani
    (Photo: Courtesy)
    The wreckage of two cars was on display on the road outside the airport as a reminder of the attack.
    In Lebanon, the Shi'ite militant Hezbollah grouped marked the anniversary of Soleimani's killing with a symbolic event on a hill in the country's south overlooking the border area with Israel.
    A group of Hezbollah fighters dressed in military uniforms swore the oath of Hezbollah while officials raised the group's yellow flag with posters of Soleimani and al-Muhandis on it.
    The leader of the Tehran-backed organization said in a televised speech later on Sunday that Soleimani's killing caused serious repercussions in the region.
    "Removing America from the region ... would not have been a serious and a declared goal that the people in region must work towards (achieving) if it weren't for this historical incident," Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said, adding that Iran is strong and capable of responding militarily.

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