SRINAGAR: Protests were reported from various places in Kashmir and Kargil against the killing of an Iranian army general in a US drone attack in Baghdad. Protests concluded peacefully, mostly before the Friday congregations in Budgam, Srinagar and Kargil. These areas remained on protest strike.

Carrying the slain Iranian General’s photographs, Shia Muslim protesting the US attack in central Kashmir’s Budgam district. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

Protesters carried placards reading Down with Israel and Down with the US, along with the pictures of General Soleimani and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. They were shouting anti-Israel and anti-US slogans and comprised around 3000 people. The protests were restricted to Shia Muslim dominated areas of the twin UTs.

“The protest was peaceful and around 3,000 people marched from the old bus stand to the new one, walking around 1km on the main road,” The Telegraph quoted Abid Hussain Bhat saying. Bhat is an executive of a local group that spearheaded the protests. Similar protests were reported from Magam (Baramulla) and Hassanabad (Srinagar) and Kargil, where most of the town was out on streets after the Friday prayers were over.

US drone attack in Bagdhad led to the killing of Major General Qassem Soleimani, the top commander of the elite Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards. The attack tore into pieces Suleimani’s body, who was later identified by the ring he wore. The attack came in the cargo area of the Baghdad’s international airport soon after he came out of his aircraft and got into a car.

“At the direction of the President, the US military has taken decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad by killing Qassem Soleimani,” wire agency AP quoted the Pentagon saying. “This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.”

The Pentagon accused slain Soleimani of having “orchestrated” attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the past few months and approved the “attacks” on the US embassy in Baghdad this week.

“Trump through his gamble has dragged the US into the most dangerous situation in the region,” Hessameddin Ashena, an adviser to Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani wrote on the social media app Telegram. “Whoever put his foot beyond the red line should be ready to face its consequences.”

The killing, AP reported from Baghdad, “could draw forceful Iranian retaliation against American interests in the region and spiral into a far larger conflict between the US and Iran, endangering US troops in Iraq, Syria and beyond”. The attack, it added, “marks a potential turning point in the Middle East and represents a drastic change for American policy toward Iran after months of tensions”.

Not in the US is happy over the attack. Democratic senator, Richard Blumenthal has said Trump owes a full explanation to Congress. “The present authorizations for use of military force in no way cover starting a possible new war,” he was quoted saying. “This step could bring the most consequential military confrontation in decades.” Leftist Congresswoman, Ilhan Omar tweeted: “So what if Trump wants war, knows this leads to war and needs the distraction? Real question is, will those with congressional authority step in and stop him? I know I will.”

Senator Lindsey Graham, an ally of Trump, however, said the death of Soleimani is a “major blow to the Iranian regime that has American blood on its hands.”


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