Iraqi PM joins funeral procession for slain Iranian general Qassem Suleimani

Iraqi militia leader Hadi Al Ameri also seen at procession for Quds force commander and others killed in US air strike

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Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi on Saturday joined thousands of mourners in a funeral procession for Iranian military commander Maj Gen Qassem Suleimani, Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis and others killed in a US air strike in Baghdad.

Hadi Al Ameri, another militia leader, and Shiite cleric Ammar Al Hakim also took part alongside other pro-Iran figures.

Suleimani was Tehran's most prominent military commander and oversaw the operations of Iran's proxy forces in the Middle East.

Muhandis was the deputy commander of Iraq's Popular Mobilisation Forces, an umbrella grouping of paramilitary groups largely aligned with Iran. They were among 10 people killed in the US strike on Suleimani's convoy as it left Baghdad airport on Friday.

A handout picture released by Iraq's Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force on January 4, 2020, shows Iraq's caretaker prime minister Adel Abdel Mahdi (C-R) arriving for the funeral of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi paramilitary chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in Baghdad's district of al-Jadriya, in Baghdad's high-security Green Zone. Thousands of Iraqis chanting "Death to America" joined the funeral procession for Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi paramilitary chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, both killed in a US air strike. The cortege set off around Kadhimiya, a Shiite pilgrimage district of Baghdad, before heading to the Green Zone government and diplomatic district where a state funeral was to be held attended by top dignitaries. In all, 10 people -- five Iraqis and five Iranians -- were killed in Friday morning's US strike on their motorcade just outside Baghdad airport. - === RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / HO /HASHED AL-SHAABI MEDIA OFFICE" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS ===
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, centre, at the funeral procession for Iranian military commander Qassem Suleimani and Iraqi militia chief Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis in Baghdad on January 4, 2020. AFP

The procession began at the Imam Kadhim shrine, one of the most revered sites for Shiite Muslims, with mourners marching in the streets alongside militia vehicles. The procession will travel to Karbala and end in Najaf, both cities considered holy by Shiites.

A video posted on Twitter showed mourners waving Iraqi and militia flags and chanting slogans against the United States as they gathered in Baghdad.

The US said Suleimani was killed because he was plotting attacks on its diplomats and forces in the region.

Hostilities between the US and Iran have been playing out in Iraq since last week after pro-Iranian militia attacked the US embassy in Baghdad in the aftermath of a deadly US air raid on locations belonging to Kataib Hezbollah militia, which was founded by Muhandis.

Friday's attack divided Iraqi public opinion. Many condemned the strikes, seeing Suleimani as a hero for his role in defeating ISIS in Iraq.

Others voiced approval, saying Suleimani and Muhandis had backed the use of force against unarmed anti-government protesters last year and established militias that demonstrators blame for many of Iraq's social and economic woes.

Many Iraqis criticised Washington for killing the men on Iraqi soil and possibly plunging Iraq into another war.