Fresh air strike in Iraq ahead of Soleimani funeral
Raid left many dead and wounded, say police; no comment from the US
- Published 4.01.20, 3:13 PM
- Updated 4.01.20, 3:13 PM
- a min read
A fresh air strike hit pro-Iran fighters in Iraq early on Saturday, as fears grew of a proxy war erupting between Washington and Tehran a day after an American drone strike killed a top Iranian general.
The killing of Quds Force commander Major General Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad on Friday was the most dramatic escalation yet in spiralling tensions between Iran and the United States, which pledged to send more troops to the region, even as President Donald Trump insisted he did not want war.
Iran's ambassador to the United Nations, Majid Takht Ravanchi, told CNN that the killing was an “act of war on the part of the United States”.
A new strike on Saturday targeted a convoy belonging to the Hashed al-Shaabi, an Iraqi paramilitary network dominated by Shiite factions with close ties to Iran. The Hashed did not say who it held responsible but Iraqi state television reported it was a US air strike.
A police source told AFP the strike left “dead and wounded,” without providing a specific toll. There was no immediate comment from the US. It came hours ahead of a planned a mourning march for Soleimani, who was killed alongside Hashed number two Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in the precision drone strike.
As head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps' foreign operations arm, Soleimani was a powerful figure domestically and oversaw wide-ranging Iranian involvement in regional power struggles -- and anti-US forces.
Trump said the 62-year-old, who had been blacklisted by the US, had been plotting imminent attacks on American diplomats. His assassination has rattled the region, with Iraqis fearing a proxy war between Washington and Tehran.
A total of five Revolutionary Guards and five Hashed fighters were killed in Friday's strike near Baghdad international airport. Their bodies were scheduled to be laid to rest in an elaborate mourning procession on Saturday, beginning with a state funeral in the capital and ending in the Shiite holy city of Najaf to its south.
The bodies of the Guards will then be flown to Iran, which has declared three days of mourning for Soleimani.
Tehran has already named his deputy, Esmail Qaani, to replace him.