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US denies new air strike on pro-Iran convoy ahead of Soleimani funeral

Protesters and members of the militia demonstrate at the American Embassy in Baghdad on January 1 2020.
Protesters and members of the militia demonstrate at the American Embassy in Baghdad on January 1 2020. Khalid al-Mousily / Reuters

Iranian state TV claimed that there was a fresh air strike on pro-Iran fighters in Iraq early Saturday. However, both the Iraqi military and the PMF itself later denied any air strikes had taken place in the area. The US-led coalition fighting Islamic State also said it did not conduct any recent attacks near the camp north of Baghdad.

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The killing of Quds Force commander Major General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on Friday was the most dramatic escalation yet in spiralling tensions between Iran and the United States, which pledged to send more troops to the region - even as President Donald Trump insisted he did not want war.

Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Majid Takht Ravanchi, told CNN that the killing was an “act of war on the part of the United States”.

The Hashed al-Shaabi, an Iraqi paramilitary network dominated by Shiite factions with close ties to Iran, claimed a new strike had taken place early on Saturday morning, targeting one of their convoys. It alleged further air strikes near camp Taji had killed six people and critically wounded three when they hit a convoy of medics.

The Hashed did not say who it held responsible but Iraqi state television reported it was a US air strike.

This came hours ahead of a planned a mourning march for Soleimani, who was killed alongside Hashed number two Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in the precision drone strike.

As head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps’ foreign operations arm, Soleimani was a powerful figure domestically and oversaw wide-ranging Iranian involvement in regional power struggles—and anti-US forces.

Trump said the 62-year-old, who had been blacklisted by the US, had been plotting imminent attacks on American diplomats.

His assassination has rattled the region, with Iraqis fearing a proxy war between Washington and Tehran.

A total of five Revolutionary Guards and five Hashed fighters were killed in Friday’s strike near Baghdad international airport.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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