UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — At the start of the ninth street in the Najaf cemetery, a white minibus stopped next to a military vehicle and five girls got out of them, and they went quickly to the grave of the military commander Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis while they were taking pictures without stopping.
The girls joined men clutching their chests and women crying, who gathered around the grave that has become a destination for thousands of Shiites seeking revenge from the United States, more than a month and a half after the engineer was killed in a US raid in Baghdad that also killed his close friend, Leader of the Iranian Quds Force Qassem Soleimani.
Thousands of Shiites flock to the holy city of Najaf daily to visit the shrine of Imam Ali bin Talib, but the tomb of the engineer has become an additional stop on their religious journey.
Abbas Abdel-Hussein, who is in charge of the site’s security, told AFP that the grave “turned into a shrine, not just a private cemetery.”
“Women, children and men (…) come from Iran, Lebanon and Bahrain to visit Abu Mahdi, and the numbers per day are more than a thousand,” he added, while an Iranian man was reciting a chant, as the voices of the crowd cried.
A young man slowly advanced toward the grave, and sat next to him under a huge picture of the engineer, slapping his chest and face and shouting, “God is revenge against America.”
The American raid on January 3 was a major blow to Tehran and the groups loyal to it, as it overthrew the two most important military figures charged with consolidating Iran’s military influence outside its borders.
The engineer, who holds both Iraqi and Iranian nationalities, was the cornerstone of Iranian ambitions in Iraq and the driving force of anti-American groups.
The Shiite factions vowed revenge, threatening the bases and diplomatic headquarters and the American soldiers in Iraq, who numbered more than five thousand soldiers.
But after seven weeks, the response is still postponed, as the legacy of the engineer embodies his grave in Wadi Al Salam and a glass room in his place of death near Baghdad airport.
Umm Hussain, who comes from Basra, says that she passed 450 km in one of the minibuses to visit the grave.
“Whenever we come to visit Imam Ali, we will visit the hero martyr (engineer). This is a must,” said the woman, who wore the traditional black southern cloak.
From the early morning hours until the evening, buses for visitors from different regions and other countries stop successively near the entrance to the cemetery, among whom was who was fighting with the engineer, and who he got acquainted with only after he was killed.
Residents in the city recount that the news of his killing caused a major shock to the supporters of armed groups who had gathered for hours in the cemetery before the arrival of his body, noting that his wife and other female relatives buried him under the gaze of men and journalists were prevented from taking pictures.
And “Valley of Peace” is one of the largest cemeteries in the world in terms of geographical area, and a legend revolves around it that it accommodates all Muslims, knowing that the vast majority of the millions buried there belong to the Shiite sect.
In recent years, the number of graves with the title “martyr” and pictures of men of all ages carrying their weapons with their hand, including members of the PMF, who were killed during battles with ISIS, increased.
“You will not be forgotten” –
Also from Basra, Souad came to thank the engineer for his fight against the extremist group. “He is the one who responded ISIS, who is the hero, may God have mercy on him,” she said calmly, shouting that “his death affected us and the entire crowd.”
Although Faleh al-Fayyad, the Iraqi National Security Adviser, is the head of the Popular Mobilization Authority, the engineer was largely the de facto leader of this body, which was formed by a fatwa from Iraq’s top Shiite cleric Ali al-Sistani in 2014 to stop the expansion of the Islamic State.
The engineer worked on developing the crowd to make it an organization that is not subject to the full leadership of the Prime Minister and not affiliated with the traditional security forces, despite its integration with government forces.
Some of its militant factions, including the Hezbollah Brigades, are still practicing activities independent from Baghdad, such as trying to target American forces, according to Washington, amid questions about the crowd’s future and the centrality of the decision in it after the killing of the engineer and the escalation of competition between his factions.
But in the Najaf cemetery, there is currently no time but to cry.
After about twenty people gathered around the tomb, which mediates a group of graves of other Shiite military leaders, the Iranian Reda Abadi opened his phone and began reading a religious song with a sad voice.
“We had to come here to show our respect for this dear Iranians and Iraqis,” said Abadi, who came from Soleimani’s hometown of Kerman.
He added, “God willing, the memory of the two martyrs Hajj Qassem and Abu Mahdi will remain and will not be forgotten.”
Visitors one after the other stood on the grave taking pictures of themselves shedding tears, while a woman was running behind her child, who was spontaneously walking over the graves with a hand in a plastic pistol and wearing clothes similar to American cowboy clothes.
This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for OBSERVATORY NEWS from different countries around the world – material edited and published by OBSERVATORY staff in our newsroom.
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