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Nepal releases new political map showing Lipulekh and Kalapani as part of its territory

Nepal has issued a new national map incorporating areas also claimed by neighboring India, prompting fierce criticism from New Delhi.

At issue is about 300 square kilometers (115 square miles) of mountainous land incorporating Lipulekh, Limpiyadhura and Kalapani. Nepal’s new map locates the small stretch of disputed land within its northwest border, between China and India.
The cartographic dispute is based on differing interpretations of treaty signed by the British East India Company with the King of Nepal in 1816, which established the boundary between the two countries. Though both sides have long claimed the territory as their own, Wednesday marked the first time Nepal issued a map including the disputed area. India already includes the contested area in its own official map.

The dispute was reignited on May 8, when Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh virtually inaugurated a newly built 80-kilometer (50-mile) road connecting India’s Dharchula to Tibetan autonomous region via the Lipulekh pass, which is part of the contested area.
India expects the route to facilitate trade and the movement of Hindu pilgrims to Mansoravar lake in Chinese-administered Tibet, which is considered auspicious.
But hundreds of angry Nepali protesters took to the streets across Nepal opposing the Indian inauguration, burning Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s effigy and called it a violation of their territorial sovereignty.
Nepal responded quickly. On May 9, its foreign ministry issued a statement asking India to “refrain from carrying out any activity inside the territory of Nepal.”
India responded, saying that the inaugurated road section lies “completely” within its territory, and that the two countries would discuss it after the worst of the coronavirus pandemic had passed. “Both sides are also in the process of scheduling Foreign Secretary level talks which will be held once the dates are finalized between the two sides after the two societies and governments have successfully dealt with the challenge of Covid-19 emergency,” the Indian foreign ministry said in a statement.

The next day, the Nepali government summoned the Indian ambassador over the matter.
Speaking in parliament on Tuesday, Nepal’s Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli suggested India was bullying Nepal, and warned, “We won’t let go the issue of Lipulekh, Limpiyadhura and Kalapani. This is our land and we will reclaim it. It is not a disputed land. It is our land. India created unnecessary controversy by claiming it as theirs. This government will make concrete efforts to reclaim the territories.”
Even China weighed in that day, with Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian saying during a daily press conference: “We hope the two countries will resolve their differences properly through friendly consultations and refrain from taking any unilateral action that may complicate the situation.”
On Wednesday, Nepal officially unveiled its revised and expanded national map — a move that India’s foreign ministry quickly criticized as “unilateral” and lacking in “historical facts and evidence.” “Such artificial enlargement of territorial claims will not be accepted by India,” the ministry added in its statement.
Nepal has not explained why the areas were not previously included in its national map.
Unveiling Nepal’s new political map that includes territories on Wednesday, central minister Padma Kumar Aryal expressed hope India will take it “in a positive way”. This is an unusual optimism to settle a boundary question.

Aryal did not elaborate her “positive” remark. Given the nature of India-Nepal relation, however, indicates that the Nepal government hopes India will factor in what is going on domestically in Nepal’s politics

THE BACKSTORY: OLI’S PM CHAIR

Nepal is being ruled by a relatively upstart political party, the Nepal Communist Party (NCP), which turned two over last weekend. The two-year-old party came into being with China’s ruling communist party after merger of two dominant communist parties of Nepal – the Marxist-Leninist and the Maoist.

Nepal’s Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli shares the chair of the Nepal Communist Party with Pushpa Kumar Dahal, more commonly known as Prachanda. Oli is from the Marxist-Leninist stream and Prachanda from Maoist faction.

Oli became the prime minister following an electoral victory in 2017 and a compromise between the two factions in the ruling party in 2018. But his position in the Nepal’s PMO has not been secure. There has been pressure on him to make way for a Maoist prime minister.

Covid-19 outbreak in Nepal and the failure of the Oli government to manage the disease in the country only mounted pressure on the prime minister, who was not ready to let go the reins of the power out of his hand.

Though, he once proposed to resign in favour of Bamdev Gautam. But the other factions, particularly the one under Prachanda and Madhav Kumar Nepal did not agree.

Then in the middle of Covid-19 outbreak, the Oli government promulgated two ordinances on April 20. They were not related to Covid-19 strategy. These laws amended the Political Parties Act of Nepal making it easier to split a party.

This move baffled political observers as the Nepal Communist Party has majority in the country’s parliament. This, however, exposed the fault-lines lying beneath the surface unity of the party, and also the growing pressure on Oli to quit.

The Kathmandu Post reported that the approval for the ordinances from President Bidya Devi Bhandari came while a secretariat meeting was underway to discuss the ordinances. The daily called it “well-choreographed move”.

Soon after the ordinances were brought out, the rival faction stepped up ante against Oli. Prachanda took charge of the rival faction forcing Oli to withdraw the ordinances in four days.

This was also the time when Chinese ambassador in Nepal got involved holding meetings with both factions and also with President Bhandari. A compromise was reached. But public opinion was going against the government and the ruling party.

Some time in between a strategy was devised to deflect public attention from crisis in the government and its failure to tackle Covid-19 crisis. National pride became the rallying point. Oli has a history of thriving on anti-India sentiments.

India soon opened new Kailash Mansarovar route through Lipulekh pass. Nepal protested. The November 2019 updated map released by India provided the launching pad.

India had released its new political map following creation of two Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh from erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. The map can be seen here.

Nepal had then protested over inclusion of Kalapani in India’s map. India had then said its boundaries with Nepal had not been altered in the new map.

Six months later, Nepal has now released its new political map. Its old map obviously did not show Kalapani, Lipiyadhura and Lipulekh as its territories. These areas have not been under Nepal’s administration.

There is more to Kalapani story and Oli’s anti-India stance. During his first term as Nepal’s prime minister, there was a constitutional crisis in Nepal fueling anti-India sentiments with India unofficially imposing blockade for months. To counter India, Oli had signed a series of agreements with China.

His remark that novel coronavirus from India is more lethal than the variants from Italy and China, is convenient politicking to raise an anti-India sentiment among his political constituencies.
The issue

The main issue is that Lipulekh Pass is considered a disputed border region by Nepal and both the countries claim it to be a part of their territory. India has always been clear on this and considers Lipulekh within the country borders. On Friday (May 8), the Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had inaugurated the new route to reach Kailash Mansarovar. Indians and Tibetans have been in border trade for quite some time now at the Lipulekh Pass and this new road links the pass to Dharchula, which is a town in Pithoragarh, Uttarakhand in India. Soon after the inauguration, Nepal raised an objection to the new route.

As of now, the second stretch is being converted into a double lane road by the Border Roads Organisation. Till now, 76 km of the 80 km stretch, (that will cut down the travel time to two days by vehicles) is completed and the last 4 km stretch till Lipulekh Pass is expected to be completed by the end of 2020.

A statement released by the Ministry of Defence said, “The road originates from Ghatiabagarh and terminates at Lipulekh Pass, the gateway to Kailash-Mansarovar. In this 80-km road, the altitude rises from 6000 to 17060 ft. With the completion of this project, the arduous trek through treacherous, high-altitude terrain can now be avoided by the pilgrims of Kailash-Mansarovar”.

Why is Nepal objecting to the connecting road for Kailash Mansarovar through Lipulekh Pass?Credit: iStock

The new route via Uttarakhand will have three main stretches.

1) The first one is a 107.6 km long road from Pithoragarh to Tawaghat.
2) The second will be from Tawaghat to Ghatiabgarh on a 19.5 km single lane.
3) The third is the 80 km from Ghatiabgarh to Lipulekh Pass at the China border.

The Lipulekh stretch can be only covered on foot and almost takes five days to reach. Not only this, a number of accidents have happened on this road. Till now, Indian pilgrims could reach Kailash Mansarovar via three routes only, through Sikkim, Uttarakhand and Kathmandu (the capital city of Nepal).

International

‘President Trump Will Raise Issue Of Religious Freedom With PM Modi’: White House On CAA, NRC

Expressing concerns over the rights of minorities in India the White House on Friday said that the US President will raise the issue of religious freedom with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the prior’s scheduled visit to India next week. “President Donald Trump will talk about our shared tradition of democracy and religious freedom both in his public remarks and then certainly in private. He will raise these issues, particularly the religious freedom issue, which is extremely important to this administration,” a senior White House official told reporters in a conference call on Friday, February 21.

When asked about the new Citizenship (Amendment) Act and National Register of Citizens, the official said President trump will highlight both the issues. “I think the President will talk about these issues in his meetings with PM Modi and note that the world is looking to India to continue to uphold its democratic traditions, and respect for religious minorities,” The Indian Express quoted the official as saying. “Prime Minister Modi, in his first speech after winning the election last year, talked about how he would prioritise being inclusive of India’s religious minorities. And, certainly, the world looks to India to maintain religious liberty and equal treatment for all under the rule of law,” the official said, referring to a poll victory speech by PM Modi.

The official, noting that the US has immense respect for India and its democratic traditions and institutions, said that both the countries share the commitment in upholding the universal values and rule of law. “Of course, it’s in the Indian constitution — religious freedom, respect for religious minorities, and equal treatment of all religions. So this is something that is important to the President and I’m sure it will come up,” he added. The official pointed out that India is the birthplace of four major world religions, and said that the country has a strong democratic foundation. He further said that India is rich in religious, linguistic, and cultural diversity. Along with Trump, First Lady Melania Trump and daughter Ivanka will also be travelling to India on February 24 for two days. A 12-member delegation will be led by the trio to Ahmedabad, Agra, and New Delhi.

https://thelogicalindian.com/news/white-house-caa-nrc-19832

International

Nepal seeks review of pact with UK on Gurkha soldiers

Kathmandu:

Nepal has officially proposed to the UK a review of a 73-year-old tripartite agreement with India and Britain over the recruitment and deployment of Gurkha soldiers and their perks and facilities and replace it with a bilateral one, according to a media report on Monday.

An agreement between New Delhi, London and Kathmandu following India’s Independence from colonial rule in 1947 allowed India and Britain to recruit Gurkhas, The Kathmandu Post reported.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on February 12 sent a letter to London, seeking a review of the tripartite agreement, the report said.

Nepal’s official request for a review comes months after Prime Minister KP Oli first raised the issue during his meeting in June last year with then British Prime Minister Theresa May in London. After the meeting between Oli and May, Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali had said Nepal had proposed a review of the agreement, to which May had responded “positively”. A joint statement issued after the meeting, however, stopped short of mentioning that Oli had raised the issue.

A senior official at the Prime Minister’s Office said the letter was sent to the United Kingdom for their consideration as per the policy of the present government to scrap or review all discriminatory treaties and pacts signed with other countries and make them applicable to the changed context, the paper said.

“We are following up on the matter in line with discussions held between the prime ministers of Nepal and Britain last year,” the official told the Post on condition of anonymity as he was not allowed to speak to the media. “We are equally concerned about the grievances of Gurkha veterans.”

The tripartite pact between Nepal, India and Britain assures that all perks, remuneration, facilities and pension schemes for Nepalis serving in the British and Indian armies will be equal to those of British and Indian nationals. However, Gurkha veterans have long alleged that Britain has put in place discriminatory policies in remuneration.

In the letter to the UK government, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stated that Gurkha veterans have genuine grievances that require a generous response from the British side on the basis of equality, justice and fairness, according to a copy of the letter obtained by the Post. — PTI


Discrimination in pay, pension

  • Gurkhas have long been demanding that the UK should compensate the amount that former and serving soldiers did not receive over the years due to discrimination against them in terms of pay, pension and other facilities
  • The UK started providing equal pay and pension to Gurkhas in 2007. However, those recruited from 1975 to 1993 retired before 2007 were deprived of equal pay, pension and a host of other facilities
  • Those who served the British Army from 1947 to 1975 when there was no provision for pension were also not provided equal pay and other facilities
International

Why I love living in Wuhan and worry for its future

It fills me with sadness that Wuhan is currently becoming synonymous with the coronavirus that is causing a national emergency and concern around the world. I see the news coming out of Wuhan daily, the city I’ve come to love and call my home. Stories of infections increasing, stories of exhaustion, worry, isolation but also stories of self-sacrifice, support and hope. Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have surfaced, remains on lockdown and outbreak has killed more than 420 people around the world.

For several years, I’ve been talking about Wuhan to whomever would listen. When mentioning the name, people would often just stare and say, “Wu… what?” “Wuhan”! “Where’s that?” “Hubei Province, Central China, a city of more than 11 million people …” “Mhhh, never heard of it.” End of conversation.

I’ve talked about the beauty of Wuhan, how the city keeps changing, becoming more interesting day by the day. It has a growing art and creative scene, new green and recreative spaces springing up everywhere.

I’ve talked about Wuhan University, which boasts China’s most beautiful campus. As a foreign expert on secondment from Dublin City University (DCU) to Wuhan University from 2017 to 2019, I’d the privilege to work alongside a team of professionals and share in the personal growth of some of China’s brightest students. I’ve lived in Ireland for almost 25 years and returned to Dublin last summer, but I recently chose to move back to Wuhan because I’d missed my life in this city.

I consider myself very lucky to be able to call this place my home. I was once asked what stories could be told to the world about Wuhan. I said that I’d write about its natural beauty in all its variation, the campus, the lakes, the mountains and rivers. I would write about long walks along the East Lake and bike rides criss-crossing the mighty Yangtze river. I would write about the city’s culture and art and music. I would try and capture the sounds of frogs and birds singing outside my window at 3.30 in the morning.

I would describe the intoxicating scent of osmanthus in autumn and the amazing sunsets all across the city. I would bring the reader on a culinary tour of Wuhan’s local foods, on a visual tour of the city’s arts and culture, and on a sound tour of its music. I would introduce them to the strength and the kindness of its people … and much, much more. I said that I hoped, one day, to find the time to sit down and start writing. I never did but I’ve been trying to get friends, family and colleagues to visit this city that recently appeared high up on a list of the most attractive cities in China. It’s attraction is also for its status as the Chinese city that hosts more institutions of higher learning than any other in the country, a place of phenomenal economic growth, a city also that has witnessed growing engagement with Irish business and education, including the long-standing partnership between DCU and Wuhan University that brought me there in the first place.

After returning to Wuhan in early December of last year to take up a position as lecturer in intercultural communication at Wuhan University, everything seemed to have fallen into place for me – I was already familiar with the city and the campus, I was given the warmest of welcomes and I was looking forward to starting my teaching load after the spring festival. I was also looking forward to family and friends visiting so that they could see the place none of them had ever heard of and which I was incessantly talking about.

At the end of December, a few cases of “novel pneumonia” were detected in the city of Wuhan. We all took notice but assumed that this was nothing to worry about. We started wearing masks and decided to be more vigilant, and avoid crowded places. Other than that, it was life as normal and I continued exploring the city for new music venues, exhibitions and the likes. With the impending Chinese Spring Festival and associated holidays everyone was excitedly talking about their holidays – some within China and others abroad. I myself had made plans to travel to Beijing, Shenyang and Dalian to visit friends. There were end of year gatherings and then we all said our goodbyes. I took a small bag and headed to Beijing with the intention of returning to Wuhan on January 30th.

Sylvia Schroeder: 'I consider myself very lucky to be able to call this place my home'
Sylvia Schroeder: ‘I consider myself very lucky to be able to call this place my home’

Between the time I left Wuhan and the moment I arrived in Beijing – a short four and a half hour high-speed train ride – it was becoming clear that something was beginning to change. The news about the number of infected people increasing, and the coronavirus (now often dubbed the “Wuhan virus”) spreading to other parts of China and abroad was becoming more urgent, more serious. I was also starting to receive messages from family and friends, from former colleagues back in Ireland, from other people I had worked with in China and abroad. Many of these people had only known Wuhan from my stories and most would never have got in touch with me, except that they suddenly made a connection – Wuhan had finally entered people’s consciousness, they were able to place it on a map, but unfortunately for all the wrong reasons.

As I spent these last few days in Beijing but the situation changed from one where I had planned to return home to Wuhan a few days ago to one where I cannot return to my home as the city is now under lock down, and it is difficult to know when it will be okay to return. I headed, instead, to Europe with my small bag holding only the most essential items. I also carry with me all my memories and my love for Wuhan and its people. I’m determined to return as soon as I can though, in the meantime, I worry for the people I’ve left behind, the friends I am in daily contact with.

The city of Wuhan
The city of Wuhan

What I’ve seen over the last few weeks is a city that has come together with an unrivalled resolve to overcome a major crisis through combined strength of solidarity in the face of adversity, a people working together in self-sacrifice, an unbelievable determination to get the situation under control, and a hope for normality to return as soon as possible. People are going out of their way to help and support each other. They choose to believe that they can beat the crisis to return life to normal as quickly as possible. But, people are also worried about how the world might now view them and their beloved city.

International

Iran’s retaliation is more conventional than expected

Iran struck back at the United States early Wednesday for the killing of a top Iranian general last week, firing a series of surface-to-surface missiles at an Iraqi air base housing US troops and warning the United States and its allies in the region not to retaliate.

The Pentagon confirmed the strike at Ain Assad as well as another at a separate base housing US troops.

“At approximately 5:30 p.m. (EST) on January 7, Iran launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles against US military and coalition forces in Iraq,” the Pentagon said in a statement. “It is clear that these missiles were launched from Iran and targeted at least two Iraqi military bases hosting US military and coalition personnel at Al-Assad and Irbil.”

A man holds a picture of late Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani as people celebrate in the street after Iran launched missiles at U.S.-led forces in Iraq, in Tehran on Wednesday.

After a U.S. drone strike killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani last week, America braced itself for the unexpected: The Department of Homeland Security issued an advisory warning that Iran may launch cyberattacks against critical infrastructure. New York’s governor deployed the National Guard to New York City’s major airports.

Those precautions are wise and understandable. But Iran’s missile attacks on bases hosting U.S. troops in Iraq on Wednesday shows that the regime’s retaliation may be more conventional than expected.

Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran has used terrorist groups as proxies to strike at civilians and embassies, attempting to obscure their own responsibility for these attacks.

Now the Iranian regime is signaling a new approach.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told his advisers last week that its response should be a “direct and proportional attack on American interests,” according to the New York Times, and that it should be “openly carried out by Iranian forces themselves.”

That said, there is good reason to doubt that Iran’s response will be limited to this attack. Iran has fought its wars through proxies since the 1990s. This was Soleimani’s legacy. From 2003 until his death last week, he built up militias in Iraq, Yemen and Syria, waging an imperial war in the shadows on Iran’s behalf throughout the Middle East.

Some analysts acknowledge that Iran’s military has the capability to do a lot of damage, particularly to U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. But it “is not going to be able to out-escalate the United States,” says Alireza Nader, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Khamenei understands this, he says, and he may be attempting to convey strength at a moment when the regime has been weakened.

Another possibility is that the U.S. drone strike demolished the strategy of plausible deniability that Iran has relied on for so long. It’s not just that Iran’s generals could no longer count on being spared the fate of the terrorists they cultivated and sponsored. The strike signaled a new U.S. strategy that imposes grave costs for Iran’s broader proxy war.

The regime will almost certainly still depend on its terrorist proxies. But Iran’s missile strike shows that it is prepared to engage in direct military attacks to take revenge for Soleimani. The world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism will also rely on conventional warfare

Bloomberg

International

Plant species named after Arunachal journalist Taro Chatung

Researchers at the Rajiv Gandhi University (RGU) in Arunachal Pradesh have named a new plant species found only in a small area in the Upper Siang district, after Taro Chatung, a popular and pioneering journalist from the north-eastern state who died in last October.

The new species, which belongs to the Gesneriaceae family — flowering plants that consist of about 152 genera and over 3,500 species — has been named Lysionotus chatungii after Chatung.

Details of the species were published this week in the taxonomic journal Pleione, brought out by the East Himalayan Society for Spermatophyte Taxonomy.

“It was a new year gift for our dear friend. Chatung was the most popular journalist and one of the pioneers of electronic media in Arunachal Pradesh. That’s why we decided to name it after him as a tribute to his memory,” said Dr Hui Tag, head of RGU’s botany department.

Chatung, who was suffering from cancer, died on October 26, 2019 at the Tomo Riba Institute of Health and Medical Sciences in Itanagar. He left his state civil service job in 1988 to pursue journalism.

Chatung’s show “News and Views”, which aired on Doordarshan, was one of the most-viewed television news programmes in the state. He was also a founding member and former president of the Arunachal Press Club and the Arunachal Pradesh Union of Working Journalists.

Momang Taram, a research scholar at the university’s botany department, found the new species, a small climbing herbaceous plant, at Geku in Upper Siang district of the state last April.

The plant found growing on rocks and tree trunks has been stated to be endemic to the district. Less 100 plants of the kind were found spread over a three-square-km area.

As per IUCN’s (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List Category and Criteria, due to is the extent of occurrence (found only in an area less than 10 sq km), Lysionotus Chatungii should be listed as critically endangered.

“The plant is available only in this particular area in Arunachal Pradesh. We wanted to dedicate the plant to the journalist community in the north-east by naming it after Chatung,” Taram said. (HT)

International

Donald Trump: US targeting 52 Iranian sites if Tehran attacks Americans

Mr. Trump took to Twitter after pro-Iran factions ramped up pressure on U.S. installations across Iraq with missiles and warnings to Iraqi troops.

U.S. President Donald Trump. File.U.S. President Donald Trump. File.   | Photo Credit: AFP

Donald Trump warned Saturday that the U.S. is targeting 52 sites in Iran and will hit them “very fast and very hard” if the Islamic republic attacks American personnel or assets.

In a tweet defending Friday’s drone strike assassination of a top Iranian general in Iraq, Mr. Trump said 52 represents the number of Americans held hostage at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran for more than a year starting in late 1979.

Mr. Trump said some of these sites are “at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!”

Mr. Trump took to Twitter after pro-Iran factions ramped up pressure on U.S. installations across Iraq with missiles and warnings to Iraqi troops — part of an outburst of fury over the killing of Soleimani, described as the second most-powerful man in Iran.

The attack has prompted fears of a major conflagration in the Middle East.

In the first hints of a possible retaliatory response, two mortar rounds hit an area near the US embassy in Baghdad on Saturday, security sources told AFP.

Almost simultaneously, two rockets slammed into the Al-Balad airbase where American troops are deployed, security sources said.

The Iraqi military confirmed the missile attacks in Baghdad and on al-Balad and said there were no casualties. The U.S. military also said no coalition troops were hurt.

With Americans wondering fearfully if, how and where Iran will hit back for the assassination, the Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin that said “at this time there is no specific, credible threat against the homeland.”

International

2 Missiles Hit Green Zone Near US Embassy in Baghdad, Rockets Target Iraqi Air Base Hosting US Troops

Baghdad: Two missiles hit the Green Zone in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad on Saturday, according to security sources, a day after a deadly American strike.

The precision drone strike outside the Baghdad airport on Friday killed the Iran Revolutionary Guards commander General Qasem Soleimani. The US now fears a backlash against its mission and bases where its troops are deployed across Iraq.

Several reports suggested that the twin blasts took place in the Green Zone, the high-security enclave where the US embassy is based. The Iraqi military said one projectile hit inside the zone, while another landed close to the enclave.

Sirens immediately rang out at the American compound in Baghdad hosting both diplomats and troops, said sources.

A pair of Katyusha rockets then struck the Al-Balad Air Force Base hosting US troops in the north of the capital. Security sources there reported blaring sirens and said surveillance drones were sent above the base to locate the source of the rockets.

Soleimani was one of the most popular figures in Iran and was seen as a deadly adversary by the US and its allies. Top Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an adviser to Soleimani, was also killed in the attack on Friday.

Thousands of people marched in Baghdad on Saturday to mourn Soleimani and others killed in the air strike, with marchers waving Iraqi and militia flags in a sombre atmosphere. Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and militia commander Hadi al-Amiri, a close Iran ally and the top candidate to succeed Muhandis, attending the procession.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed “severe revenge” after the attack. “Martyrdom was the reward for his ceaseless efforts in all these years,” Khamenei said on his Farsi-language Twitter account in reference to Soleimani.

The US embassy in Baghdad had urged American citizens in Iraq to “depart immediately” over fear of fallout from the strike.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had slammed Soleimani’s assassination as “an extremely dangerous and foolish escalation”.

“The US bears responsibility for all consequences of its rogue adventurism,” Zarif had said in a post on Twitter on Friday.

The US embassy in Baghdad as well as the 5,200 American troops stationed across the country have faced a spate of rocket attacks in recent months that Washington has blamed on Iran and its allies in Iraq.

One attack last month killed a US contractor working in northern Iraq, prompting retaliatory American air strikes that killed 25 hardline fighters close to Iran.

Iran has been locked in a long conflict with the US that escalated sharply last week with an attack on the US embassy in Iraq by pro-Iranian militiamen following a US air raid on the Kataib Hezbollah militia, founded by Muhandis.

International

Thousands mourn Iranian general Qassem Soleimani at funeral in Baghdad

  Thousands mourn Iranian general Qassem Soleimani at funeral in Baghdadsend

Thousands gathered in streets across Baghdad on Saturday at the start of a funeral procession for Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian general killed by the United States.

Thousands of mourners have joined the formal funeral processions for Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, Iraqi paramilitary commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandisand several others others killed in a US air strike in Iraq‘s capital, Baghdad.