Hashd deputy leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis buried in Iraq's Najaf

Mourners gathered in the holy city to pay their respects before the armed group leader was buried at Salam Cemetery.

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    Al-Muhandis was killed alongside Soleimani, the commander of Iran's Quds Force near Baghdad airport on Friday [File: Aziz Taher/Reuters]
    Al-Muhandis was killed alongside Soleimani, the commander of Iran's Quds Force near Baghdad airport on Friday [File: Aziz Taher/Reuters]

    Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a leader of Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF, or Hashd al-Shaabi), has been buried at the Salam Cemetery in the Iraqi holy city of Najaf.

    Al-Muhandis was killed alongside Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and several others in a US air raid outside Baghdad airport on Friday.

    His body was taken to Iran for the DNA test and was returned on Tuesday.

    "The DNA testing was completed successfully and he was flown to Basra, his hometown, for mourners to pay their respects," said PMF media representative Mohannad Hussein.

    "We were meant to bury him tonight [Tuesday], but because of the huge crowd that gathered at the funeral procession in Basra, things took longer than expected," said Hussein.

    Al-Muhandis, whose real name was Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi, was the top Iraqi adviser to Soleimani and founder of the Kataib Hezbollah armed group. He was also the de facto leader of the PMF, an umbrella group of mostly Iranian-backed Shia armed groups.

    Hundreds of people gathered on the streets of Najaf on Tuesday night to pay their final respects. Earlier, thousands of mourners had gathered in his hometown of Basra. Many raised flags of the paramilitary group and chanted "Death to America".

    Funeral processions were also held in several Iraqi cities earlier this week, including Baghdad and Karbala, where funeral prayers were held. 

    Mourners gather during a funeral procession for Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of Iran-backed militias in Basra, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020. Thousands of people gathered in Basra on Tuesday
    Mourners gather during a funeral procession for Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iran-backed militias in Basra [The Associated Press]

    'Strong retaliation'

    Mourners in Najaf told Al Jazeera that al-Muhandis's death was a great loss to Iraq. Others called for a strong response and an end to the US presence in Iraq.

    "We gathered in Najaf to pay our final respects to Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a symbol of bravery and sacrifice," Falah Abdel Hassan, 45, told Al Jazeera. "Muhandis was a real hero in our eyes. He did a great deal to protect Iraq and fight ISIL."

    The PMF, which was founded as a loose network of Shia-majority factions fighting the ISIL (ISIS) group in Iraq, was formally absorbed into Iraq's security forces. Critics say that some of the factions, including Kataib Hezbollah, still operate independent of government forces.

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    Abu Bakir al-Janabi, a 35-year-old mourner, told Al Jazeera he attended the funeral procession to condemn the US for killing al-Muhandis and Soleimani.

    "We are here to pay our respects to this great leader and to condemn his killing. He was a symbol of resistance against the US," said al-Janabi.

    "We want revenge. We call on the PMF and the government to retaliate strongly. The US troops' presence in Iraq must end immediately," he added.

    Al-Muhandis fought alongside Soleimani and other prominent Iraqi armed group leaders, including Badr Organisation chief Hadi al-Amiri, who is now set to succeed al-Muhandis.

    "He was Soleimani's man in Iraq. He was instrumental in the rise of the PMF and in its normalisation, centralisation and institutionalisation," Fanar al-Haddad, a research fellow at the Middle East Institute, National University of Singapore, told Al Jazeera.

    "Admirers see him through the prism of the fight against ISIL. Critics see him as the face of Iran in Iraq," he added.

    In a recorded video of his will that was shared after his death, al-Muhandis called on his supporters to continue resistance.

    "I pray, I spend the afterlife with ... those I fought with, from Kuwait, to Iran, to Iraq. The Badr youth, and later the resistance against the occupation, and now the PMF youth. I command you to take care of the Shia in the region and in the world," he told his followers.

    Additional reporting by Ahmed al-Okaishi in Najaf

    Thousands attend Soleimani and al-Muhandis's funeral in Baghdad (7:40)

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News