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Iraq ups security at US sites on Soleimani death anniversary

Iraq ups security at US-linked sites on Soleimani death anniversary fearing Iran revenge attacks
2 min read
03 January, 2023
A security source told The New Arab's Arabic-language sister site that there were fears a drone or missile strikes could be launched by Iran-backed groups angry over the assassination of the commander, which took place three years ago today.
A vigil was hosted to mark three years since the Quds Force commander's assassination at the site of his death [Murtadha Al-Sudani/Anadolu via Getty]

Iraqi security forces have stepped up security at US-linked sites fearing revenge attacks to mark the three years since the Washington-ordered assassination of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani.

Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force, was assassinated in a US drone strike near Baghdad International Airport on 3 January 2020, enraging Tehran and pro-Iran groups in Iraq.

Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), an umbrella group of Iran-backed Iraqi militias, was also killed in the strike.

A source from the Iraqi Joint Operations Command told The New Arab’s Arabic-language sister site on Monday that there were fears pro-Iran militias could launch drone or missile strikes to mark three years since the killing. 

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Iraqi security forces stepped up security around bases hosting US military personnel that have in the past been targeted by Iran-backed militias. This includes the Ain Al-Asad base in Anbar province and Camp Victory in Baghdad, the source said.

"Strict directives" were issued to the security forces in regions bordering Kurdish-controlled areas in the north of the country "to prevent the use of those areas as a launching pad for any missile attack on the Harir base in Erbil", he said.

Security was also upped around the Green Zone in Baghdad, home to the US Embassy.

Groups with close ties to Iran planned vigils and demonstrations to mark Soleimani’s death overnight Monday — including at the site of the drone strike at which the source who spoke to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed said security had been tightened.

Soleimani’s assassination led to stronger calls for the expulsion of US personnel from Iraq.

The US has handed several bases back to the Iraqi security forces since the attack, and withdrawn soldiers.

Some 2,000 troops remain in Iraq to help fight remnants of the Islamic State (IS) group, Washington says.