Thousands in Iraq mark year since Soleimani's killing

Tens of thousands of Iraqis gathered in central Baghdad on Sunday (December 3) to mark the first anniversary of the U.S. killing of top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani and an Iraqi militia commander.

They are chanting "America is the devil".

Soleimani, the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, was killed along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis last year in a U.S. drone strike on his convoy at Baghdad airport and many in the crowd want revenge.

Resident Abu Ahmed says the crowd is calling on the Iraqi government to take a "strong position" and demand the punishment of those who killed "our victorious leaders".

The angry demonstration - a response to calls from an array of mostly Iran-backed militias known collectively as the Popular Mobilization Forces - comes at a time of increased tensions between Iran and the U.S. in the last days of President Donald Trump's administration.

Washington blames Iran-backed militias for regular rocket attacks on U.S. facilities in Iraq.

Last week the U.S. military flew two nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to the Middle East in a message of deterrence to Iran - though they have since left the region.

On Saturday (December 2) Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif urged Trump not to be "trapped" by an alleged Israeli plan to provoke a war through attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq.

An Israeli official dismissed the accusation as "nonsense" and said it was Israel that need to be on alert for possible Iranian strikes.

Video Transcript

- Tens of thousands of Iraqis gathered in central Baghdad on Sunday to mark the first anniversary of the US killing of top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani and an Iraqi militia commander.

[CROWD CHANTING]

They are chanting, "America is the devil."

Soleimani, the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, was killed along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis last year in a US drone strike on his convoy at Baghdad Airport. And many in the crowd want revenge.

ABU AHMED: [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]

- Resident Abu Ahmed says the crowd is calling on the Iraqi government to take a strong position and demand the punishment of those who killed "our victorious leaders."

The angry demonstration-- a response to calls from an array of mostly Iran-backed militias known collectively as the Popular Mobilization Forces-- comes at a time of increased tensions between Iran and the US in the last days of President Donald Trump's administration. Washington blames Iran-backed militias for regular rocket attacks on US facilities in Iraq.

Last week, the US military flew two nuclear-capable B-52 bombers to the Middle East in a message of deterrence to Iran, though they have since left the region.

On Saturday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif urged Trump not to be trapped by an alleged Israeli plan to provoke a war through attacks on US forces in Iraq. An Israeli official dismissed the accusation as nonsense and said it was Israel that needed to be on alert for possible Iranian strikes.