Iraq, US-led coalition, deny new air strike near Baghdad

Earlier reports said that a PMF convoy was targeted overnight in Taji, north of Baghdad, amid soaring US-Iran tensions.

PMF - Iraq Hasd
Reports said an Iraqi paramilitary commander was targeted in the attack but a spokesman of the PMF, also known as Hashd al-Shaabi, said those who were killed included medics [File: Abdullah Dhiaa Al-Deen/Reuters]

The Iraqi military and the US-led coalition have denied that a US air strike had taken place on a medical convoy in Taji, north of Baghdad, afrer reports emerged that an attack killed at least six people. 

Earlier on Saturday, Iraq’s state television said an attack took place along Taji Road and that it was targeting a convoy of an Iran-backed militia, but later, Iraq’s military denied the reports. 

The US-led coalition fighting the ISIL (ISIS) group said on Saturday it did not conduct air strikes near Camp Taji.

“FACT: the coalition @cjtfoir did not conduct airstrikes near Camp Taji (north of Baghdad) in recent days,” a spokesman said on Twitter.

The reports came a day after a drone attack by the United States killed top Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani, at Baghdad airport, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of Hashd al-Shaabi, also known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF).

The PMF, issued a statement saying that no medical convoys were targeted in Taji. 

Earlier on Saturday, the group had said an air raid hit a convoy of its medics, and an Iraqi army source also said that six people were killed and three were wounded, according to Reuters news agency.

Taji Road, where the reported incident took place, leads to a base belonging to non-US coalition forces, including British and Italian troops, according to Al Jazeera’s Osama Bin Javaid, reporting from Baghdad.

The PMF is an umbrella group of Iran-backed Iraqi militias, which was legally integrated into Iraq’s state security forces. Critics say some of the militias operate independently of Baghdad.

‘Stop a war’

Saturday’s reports come as thousands of people have joined a funeral procession in Baghdad for Soleimani, al-Muhandis, and others who died in Friday’s air strike.

The procession started in Kadhimiya and headed towards the Green Zone government and diplomatic compound.

The convoy snaked its way though a sea of black-clad mourners, some of whom carried portraits of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The bodies of the Iranians will then be flown on Saturday evening to Iran, which has declared three days of mourning for Soleimani.

His funeral is due to be held on Tuesday in his hometown of Kerman in central Iran.

Commenting on the attack, US President Donald Trump said on Friday that he ordered the killing of Soleimani to stop a war, not to start one, saying the Iranian military commander was planning imminent attacks on Americans.

“Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel but we caught him in the act and terminated him,” Trump told reporters at his Mar-a-Lago resort.

“We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war,” Trump said, adding that the US is not seeking to change the government in Iran.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies