Grave of slain Iraq commander, a new anti-US magnet | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 24, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 24, 2020

Grave of slain Iraq commander, a new anti-US magnet

A minibus stopped outside the world's largest cemetery in the Iraqi Shia holy city of Najaf. Five women got out, telephone cameras filming the scene, and dashed excitedly towards a grave.

Clad in black, they joined wailing women and men beating their chests in grief at Wadi al-Salam (valley of peace), an ever expanding cemetery.

All eyes were on the grave of Iraqi paramilitary commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

Killed alongside top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike in Baghdad on January 3, Muhandis is now revered as a martyred icon of anti-American resistance.

His grave has become a magnet for Shiites vowing vengeance against Washington.

Below a life-sized portrait of the deceased commander, a young man kneeled before his grave, the wailing of women ringing around him.

"May God avenge us from America," the man screamed.

Located along aisle nine of Wadi al-Salam, the commander's final resting place has gained near-holy status.

It has become a stop for the thousands of Shiite pilgrims who pass through Najaf each day to visit the tomb of Imam Ali, son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed.

"It is not just a grave, it has been transformed into a shrine," Abbas Abdul Hussein, a security official at the cemetery, told AFP.

"Men, women and children... flock from Iran, Lebanon and Bahrain daily to visit Abu Mahdi," he said.

Washington's number one enemy in Iraq, Muhandis was head of the Hashed al-Shaabi, an Iraqi military network largely incorporated into the state.

He was Soleimani's top Iraqi aide and widely seen as Tehran's man in Baghdad.

The US strike that killed Muhandis and Soleimani outside Baghdad airport dealt a severe blow to Tehran and its so-called axis of resistance that stretches across Iran, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.

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