Thousands of mourners on Saturday joined the formal funeral procession for Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, the head of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, who was killed a day before near Baghdad’s international airport in an air strike ordered by United States President Donald Trump.
IMAGE: Mourners attend the funeral of the Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, top commander of the elite Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards, and the Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who were killed in an air strike at Baghdad airport, in Baghdad, Iraq. Photograph: Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters
Dressed in black and raising the flags of the powerful paramilitary umbrella group Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation Forces), the large crowds first gathered near the Shia shrine of Kadhimiyya in Baghdad to pay their respects to the dead, Al Jazeera reported.
Top Iraqi PMF commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an adviser to Soleimani, along with six others were also killed in the US attack.
The attack came just days after Hashd members and supporters attempted to storm the US Embassy in Baghdad, in response to the air attacks against Kataib Hezbollah – a member of the umbrella organisation that operates in Iraq and Syria.
IMAGE: Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi attends the funeral of the Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards, and the Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who were killed in an air strike at Baghdad airport, in Baghdad. Photograph: Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters
“We are here to mourn the death of these brave fighters, Soleimani and Muhandis,” 34-year-old Amjad Hamoud, who described himself as a PMF member, told Al Jazeera.
“Both of them sacrificed their lives for the sake of the Shia world and for the sake of Iraq,” he added.
The mourners, most of whom are supporters of the PMF, planned to march through the Green Zone where government offices and foreign embassies, including the US Embassy, are located.
IMAGE: Iraqi Honor Guard perform as they attend the funeral of the Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force and the Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who were killed in an air strike. Photograph: Khalid al-Mousily/Reuters
Iraq’s caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi also attended the funeral processions.
Mohannad Hussein, the media representative of the PMF, said that the bodies will be taken to the holy Shia city of Karbala where funeral prayers will be held later on Saturday.
The body of Soleimani will be flown to Tehran for funeral processions on Sunday, he added.
IMAGE: Palestinians burn representations of a US flag and an Israeli flag during a protest against the killing of Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani in Gaza. Photograph: Mohammed Salem/Reuters
Iran is also observing three days of national mourning in honour of Soleimani who is widely believed to have been the second-most powerful figure in Iran.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei has promised to exact “harsh revenge” for the targeted killing.