Iraqis hold nationwide rallies on martyrdom anniversary of anti-terror commanders

People in Iraq have attended nationwide rallies to commemorate the first anniversary of the US assassination of top Iranian and Iraqi anti-terror commanders, Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

The rally in the capital Baghdad began at 1 p.m. local time (1000 GMT) on Sunday, with participants gathering at Tahrir Square.

Iraq’s anti-terror Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), also known as Hashd al-Sha’abi, had called on the people to participate in the million-strong march, dubbed Days of Martyrdom and Sovereignty.

“We are here to commemorate the martyrdom of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Qassem Soleimani,” one of the demonstrators at Tahrir Square told the Rudaw news agency. “Let us not forget, they sacrificed a lot for Iraq and they defeated America in Iraq.”

Qais al-Khazali, the leader of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq movement, on Friday invited “every honorable citizen of this country to participate in the demonstration of Days of Martyrdom and Sovereignty on Sunday in Tahrir Square.”

Similar rallies were to take place in the provinces of Basra, Dhi Qar, Maysan, Wasit and Muthanna on Sunday.

General Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), and PMU deputy head Muhandis were assassinated along with their companions in a US terror drone strike authorized by President Donald Trump near Baghdad International Airport on January 3, 2020.

Both commanders were highly popular because of the key role they played in eliminating the Daesh terrorist group in the region, particularly in Iraq and Syria.

Two days after Washington’s assassination operation, Iraqi lawmakers approved a bill, demanding the withdrawal of all foreign military forces led by the United States from the country.

In the early hours of Sunday, a ceremony took place at Baghdad Airport to pay tribute to the martyred commanders.

Thousands of mourners joined a mock funeral procession on the highway leading to the airport.

They also lit candles at the scene of the assassination, sealed off by red ropes, with a photo of Soleimani and al-Muhandis in the middle.

Speaking at the event, PMU Chairman Falih al-Fayyadh said, “We are honored to be present at a place where the blood of Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the leaders of the path towards victory, was shed and their bodies were torn apart in the way of God.”

He called for the continuation of the path pursued by the resistance martyrs, emphasizing that the first step in avenging the assassination is to renew allegiance to the commanders.

“Hashd al-Sha’abi is an Ummah and this Ummah is always faithful to the pure blood that was shed,” he added.

Abu Hussain al-Hamidawi, the secretary general of the Kata’ib Hezbollah group, which is part of the PMU, released a statement.

He said that resistance groups would allow no one to confiscate their weapons, which are used for defending the country.

“We will keep our promise with the commanders of victory on the path of honor and pride, and we turn into a thousand Soleimanis and Abu Mahdis, with the help of God Almighty,” Hamidavi noted.