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Tens of thousands of Iraqis rallied in Baghdad to mark the first anniversary of the death of a top Iranian military commander and an Iraqi militia leader in a US drone strike, chanting anti-American slogans and demanding that US troops be tossed out of the Middle East country.
The crowds gathered Sunday in Baghdad’s central square to commemorate the deaths of Qassem Soleimani, the leader of the elite Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who headed up Iranian-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces.
The protesters, carrying photos of the two military leaders killed in the drone attack at the Baghdad airport last Jan. 3 and chanting “America is the Great Satan,” marched in the rally largely organized by the militia group.
The Trump administration has said Soleimani was the architect of attacks on US troops in the Middle East that resulted in hundreds of casualties.
The unrest comes at a time of heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran as the US, preparing for possible retaliation by Iran, sent B-52 bombers over the Persian Gulf and sent a nuclear submarine into the strategic waterway last month in a show of military strength.
Iran last year retaliated for the killings by launching a rocket attack at two Iraqi bases housing US troops, causing some to suffer concussions.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Saturday cautioned US officials not to allow Israel to trap them into entering into a war with the Islamic Republic.
“New intelligence from Iraq indicate that Israeli agent-provocateurs are plotting attacks against Americans — putting an outgoing (President Donald) Trump in a bind with a fake casus belli,” he said.
Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz called Zarif’s comments “nonesense.”
“We hear this nonsense by Zarif, that Israel would set off terrorist attacks against the United States – this really is total nonsense,” Steinitz said Sunday.
With Post wires