TEHRAN (Press Shia) – Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei strongly condemned the US for killing members of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (known as Hashd al-Sha’abi) and said Washington is taking revenge against the forces for destroying Daesh (ISIS or ISIL).

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“The US attack on Hashd al-Sha’abi was, in fact, retaliation for (defeating) Daesh because the force that crippled and destroyed the Daesh was Iraq’s PMU,” Ayatollah Khamenei said, addressing a gathering of nurses in Tehran on Wednesday.

“The Iranian government and nation and I strongly condemn the US crime and its attack on the Hashd al-Sha’abi in Iraq,” the Leader added.

Ayatollah Khamenei further described the anti-American protests in the capital, Baghdad, and elsewhere in Iraq against US airstrikes on Hashd al-Sha’abi bases as the natural result of the US crimes.

The Leader shrugged off the US claims that the protests have been encouraged by Iran, saying, “Such remarks are irrelevant because the people of the region strongly hate the United States.”

“Americans need to understand that the people of the region, like Iraq and Afghanistan, hate them because of their crimes and that hatred will show itself somewhere,” Ayatollah Khamenei said.

US officials, including President Donald Trump, are trying to accuse Iran of encouraging the protests underway in Iraq decrying US airstrikes against Hashd al-Sha’abi.

On Sunday, US forces conducted drone strikes on a number of Kata’ib Hezbollah bases in Iraq’s western Anbar province, killing at least 28 individuals and leaving another 51 injured.

Kata’ib Hezbollah is part of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units.

Following the strikes, the Pentagon issued a statement saying that it had targeted three locations of the Iraqi fighters in Iraq and two in Syria in response to alleged attacks targeting American forces.

The incident led to a massive funeral ceremony for the Iraqi martyrs, followed by a huge rally by thousands of angry protesters who reached the US diplomatic mission in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, chanting ‘Death to America’ and burning US flags on Tuesday.

The protesters further held up signs calling for the US mission to be shut down and for the parliament to order US forces to leave Iraq.

Many protesters have set up tents, announcing plans for an indefinite sit-in until the embassy is closed and the ambassador expelled from the country.

A few hours into the protest, tear gas was fired in an attempt to disperse the crowd.