Baghdad: Thousands of mourners gathered on Saturday for a funeral procession through Baghdad for Iran's top general and militant leaders killed in a US airstrike. General Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite Quds force and mastermind of its regional security strategy, was killed in an airstrike early on Friday near the Iraqi capital's international airport.
Many of the mourners were dressed in black, and they carried Iraqi flags and the flags of Iran-backed militias that are fiercely loyal to Soleimani. Iran has vowed harsh retaliation, raising fears of an all-out war.
US president Donald Trump says he ordered the strike to prevent a conflict. His administration says Soleimani was plotting a series of attacks that endangered American troops and officials, without providing evidence.
Soleimani was the architect of Iran's regional policy of mobilizing militias across Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, including in the war against the Islamic State group. He was also blamed for attacks on US troops and American allies over nearly two decades.
As tensions soared across the region, there were reports overnight of an airstrike on a convoy of Iran-backed militiamen north of Baghdad. Hours later, the Iraqi army denied any airstrike had taken place. The US-led coalition also denied carrying out any airstrike.
The Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella group of mostly Iran-backed militias, and security officials had reported the airstrike in Taji, north of the capital. An Iraqi security official had said five people were killed and two vehicles were destroyed. It was not immediately clear if another type of explosion had occurred.
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Updated Date: Jan 04, 2020 17:19:17 IST