Early Saturday, a fresh air strike struck pro-Iran fighters in Iraq as fears grew from a proxy war between Washington and Tehran a day after an American drone strike killed a top Iranian general.
This came hours ahead of a scheduled mourning march for Iranian Quds Force leader Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi heavyweight paramilitary Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, slain on Friday in a US precise drone strike in Baghdad.
The assassination was the most dramatic escalation yet in spiraling tensions between Iran and the U.S. that promised to send more troops to the region even as U.S. President Donald Trump insisted that he would not want war.
The assassination was the most drastic escalation yet in the spiraling tensions between the US and Iran that Iraqi terror in their homeland might play out.
Nearly exactly 24 hours later, the group said in a statement, a new strike struck a convoy belonging to the Hashed al-Shaabi, an Iraqi paramilitary network whose Shiite-majority groups have close ties with Iran.
It didn’t say who was responsible, but it was a U.S. air strike confirmed by Iraqi state television.
A police source told sources that the bombing was “dead and wounded” north of Baghdad without a clear count. There was no immediate U.S. comment.
The area was shaken by the assassination of Soleimani, who headed the foreign operations branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and was Iran’s pointman on Iraq.
US officials said that when a drone struck his car near Baghdad’s international airport, the 62-year-old, who had been blacklisted by the US, was killed.
The attack killed a total of five Revolutionary Guards and five members of the Hashed.
Their bodies were to be carried by an elaborate procession of mourning on Saturday, starting with a state funeral in Baghdad and ending in Najaf’s holy shrine area.
The guard bodies would then be sent to Iran, which proclaimed for Soleimani three days of mourning.
To succeed him, Tehran has already named the deputy of Soleimani, Esmail Qaani.
The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, vowed “severe revenge” immediately, and tens of thousands of Tehran demonstrators torched U.S. flags and chanted “death to America.”
The operation was hailed by US President Donald Trump who said he decided to “terminate” Soleimani after discovering that he was preparing an “imminent” attack on US diplomats and troops.
He insisted that Washington had not planned a larger confrontation, saying: “Last night we took action to stop a war. We have not taken any action to start a war.”
Just hours later, the Pentagon said that 3,000 to 3,500 soldiers from the Global Response Force of the 82nd Airborne Division would be sent to Kuwait.
A U.S. official had told sources that some of the 750 troops that had already been sent from that unit had arrived in Baghdad, there to improve security at the U.S. embassy.
This year, about 14,000 additional forces have been sent as reinforcements to the Middle East, indicating ever-increasing tensions with Iran.
About 5,200 U.S. troops are deployed throughout Iraq to assist local forces to ensure a lasting defeat of jihadists.
On the death of Soleimani, pro-Iran factions in Iraq took over to push the parliament to revoke the security agreement allowing their deployment on Iraqi soil.
Lawmakers are expected to meet for an emergency session on the strike on Sunday and hold a vote.