US, Iraq deny new air strike near Baghdad following Soleimani killing

US, Iraq deny new air strike near Baghdad following Soleimani killing
Early reports suggested a US airstrike killed six members of the Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi.
2 min read
04 January, 2020
A US air strike killed a top Iranian commander on Friday [Getty]
The US-led coalition and Iraqi military have both denied that a US airstrike had targeted a medical convoy in Taji, north of Baghdad, after reports overnight that a strike killed at least six people from an Iran-backed paramilitary group.

Iraqi state television said early on Saturday that a US airstrike had attacked a convoy belonging to Tehran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi, a paramilitary network of mostly Shia armed factions fighting the Islamic State [IS] group, killing at least six people.

The US-led coalition in Iraq said on Saturday it did not conduct any strikes near Camp Taji.

"FACT: the coalition did not conduct airstrikes near Camp Taji (north of Baghdad) in recent days," a spokesman said in a tweet.

In a seperate statement, the Iraqi military also rejected the reports.

Hashd al-Shaabi, or the Popular Mobilisation Forces, had earlier on Saturday said that an air strike targeting its fighters had hit a medical convoy. 

It later retracted that statement, saying no medical convoy had been hit, according to Reuters.

The reports came amid rising tensions in the region a day after a US airstrike near Baghdad airport killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.

Read more: Soleimani assassination spells trouble for Iraqis, Iranians and the region

As commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force, Soleimani was seen as Iran's pointman in Baghdad, as well as in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, where he was accused of commanding proxy forces to deadly effect.

Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of Hashd al-Shaabi, was also killed in the strike, alongside five other Revolutionary Guards and four other Hashd members. 

Tehran has already named Soleimani's deputy, Esmail Qaani, to succeed him.

Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has promised "severe revenge" against the US over the strike, while the Iran-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has called on "resistance fighters worldwide" to avenge Soleimani's death.

The leaders of two Hashd al-Shaabi factions have also urged the removal of the US military presence from Iraq in response.

US President Donald Trump has claimed he ordered the strike to "stop a war". "We did not take action to start a war," he said on Friday.

Between 3,000 and 3,500 additional troops will be deployed to the region, however, adding to the around 14,000 reinforcements already dispatched to the Middle East this year amid rising tensions with Iran.

Iraq's parliament is expected to convene for an emergency session on Sunday to discuss the strike.

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