In a message delivered by his representative during a sermon in the holy city of Karbala on Friday, Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani denounced as “cruel” the overnight attack which killed IRGC Quds Force Commander Major General Soleimani and top Hashd al-Sha’abi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis along with several other fighters.
Ayatollah Sistani described the attack as a violation of Iraq’s national sovereignty and international charters, and called those assassinated the “heroes of the battles for victory against Daesh terrorists.”
Earlier Friday, Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi condemned the US attack, warning of devastating consequences for Iraq as senior Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr put all his forces on alert.
The United States confirmed early on Friday that its forces had assassinated Gen. Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the second-in-command of Iraq’s pro-government Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), in an attack at Baghdad’s international airport.
Abdul-Mahdi blasted the US strike as a blatant act of “aggression” that would "spark a devastating war."
He described General Soleimani and al-Muhandis as the icons of Iraq’s victory over Western-backed Daesh terrorists.
"The assassination of an Iraqi military commander in an official post is an aggression against the country of Iraq, its state, its government and its people," the PM said, referring to al-Muhandis.
In his Friday message, Ayatollah Sistani warned about the deterioration of crises in Iraq, saying the Arab country is at some of the most dangerous junctures.
“From the criminal aggression against Iraqi forces’ positions in the city of al-Qaim, which killed and wounded tens of our combatant children to the regrettable events Baghdad witnessed during the past few days and the Thursday night’s cruel aggression near the Baghdad International Airport … all serve as a warning that the country is at very difficult conditions,” he said calling for self-restraint and wise behavior in reaction to the events.
The top cleric was referring to the US forces’ recent airstrikes on a number of Kata’ib Hezbollah bases in Qaim in the western province of Anbar, killing as many as 31 fighters and wounding almost twice as many.
The targeted Kata’ib Hezbollah forces belonged to Brigades 45 and 46 of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), better known as Hashd al-Sha’abi.
Following the strikes, the Pentagon said the raids targeted weapons storage facilities and command control locations, claiming that the bombings were in response to attacks targeting American forces in Iraq.
The raids, however, drew a wave of condemnation from officials and movements across the region, and triggered furious public protests outside the US embassy in Baghdad.