The year anniversary of the US drone operation in Baghdad that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was honored in Iraq with a sham funeral procession.
On Saturday evening, thousands of mourners joined a march on the roadway leading to the Baghdad airport, where the two men were murdered in a strike.
Demonstrators brandishing posters of Soleimani and al-Muhandis adorned both sides of the roadway, which was lined with tents that supplied food and refreshments to those stranded.
As mourners lit candles, the bombing site was transformed into a shrine-like place surrounded by crimson ropes, with a photo of Soleimani and al-Muhandis in the center.
Shrapnel marks could still be seen on the asphalt and nearby walls.
Soleimani was the chief of Iran’s special Quds Force, which was in charge of the Islamic republic’s overseas activities and frequently shuttled between Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria.
His killing heightened regional tensions and pushed the United States and Iran to the brink of war.
More protests are anticipated across Iraq on Sunday, according to Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford, reporting from Baghdad.
“The protests are aimed at getting the Iraqi government to put pressure on the Americans to evacuate the remaining troops from the country,” he stated.
“In the meantime, people on the streets are worried about any potential escalation or deterioration in the country’s security.”
The Baghdad procession took place as Iraq’s military announced that explosives experts working with its navy forces had successfully destroyed a mine detected two days earlier on an oil tanker in the Persian Gulf.
Iraqi authorities have launched an inquiry into the event, according to a statement released on Saturday. No one has claimed credit for the mine’s placement.
Tensions between Tehran and Washington have been growing in the weeks leading up to the one-year anniversary of the assassination of a prominent Iranian general.
Iran slammed US “military adventurism” in the Gulf and the Sea of Oman, as well as “false information, unsubstantiated charges, and threatening rhetoric” against Tehran in a letter to the UN Security Council on Thursday.