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The New Arab

Iraq, Finland received 'advance warning' of Iran missile attack on US forces

The strike came in retaliation against the killing of a top Iranian commander [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 January, 2020

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Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi's office has said that advanced warning of the Iranian missile attack was given, casting further doubt on Tehran's claims about US casualties.

Iran informed Iraq's prime minister that a missile attack on one of the country's bases hosting US forces was imminent, his office said on Wednesday.

Caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi then warned US and Iraqi forces stationed at the base of the coming strike, his office said, further casting doubt on Iranian claims the missile attack killed dozens of "American terrorists".

Finland has also said it was given advance warning of the strike, Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat reported. Nearly 80 of the country's troops are stationed at a military base in Erbil targeted in the Iranian strike.

Abdul Mahdi's office said it had received an "official verbal message" from Iran "that the Iranian response to the assassination of Qasem Soleimani had begun or would begin shortly".

"The strike would be limited to where the US military was located in Iraq without specifying the locations," the message said according to the prime minister's office.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps launched 22 missiles at the Erbil base and the Ain al-Assad airbase early on Wednesday. Both bases host US and other coalition troops, in addition to Iraqi forces.

Iraq and the US, in addition to a number of foreign powers whose troops are hosted by Baghdad, have said they suffered no casualties in the missile strikes. 

The strike came just five days after the Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei pledged "severe revenge" for the killing of senior Revolutionary Guards general Qasem Soleimani last week.

A US drone strike killed Soleimani and nine others, including the Iraqi deputy commander of an Iran-backed network of militias, on Friday.

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Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was widely regarded as the real director of Iraq's Hashd al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilisation Forces, a network of mostly Shia militia groups backed by Tehran.

Qais al-Khazali, the commander of one Hashd al-Shaabi militia, has also pledged to retaliate against the US over last week's drone strike.

"The initial Iranian response to the assassination of the martyred commander Soleimani has happened. Now it is time for the initial response to the assassination of the martyred commander Muhandis," Khazali, commander of the Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq militia, said in a tweet on Wednesday.

"And because Iraqis are brave and zealous, their response will not be any less than that or Iran's. That is a promise."

The Iran-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has also pledged to deliver its own response to the strike.

In Baghdad, anti-government protesters on Wednesday lit fires and closed streets near the protest hub of Tahrir Square, demonstrating against the Iranian missile strike.

Around 100 protesters took part in the protest, the latest demonstration to target Iranian military and political influence on Iraq. The protesters carrying Iraqi flags shouted "Iran out, out!" before they were dispersed by security forces, AFP reported.

Agencies contributed to this report

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