On Tuesday Iraqi officials commemorated Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the senior commander killed in last month’s US drone strike on Baghdad that targeted powerful Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.

Muhandis was the deputy head of the Hashed al-Shaabi, a loose network of paramilitary groups formed in 2014 to fight jihadists that has since been absorbed into the Iraqi state.

He, Soleimani and eight others were killed in the January 3 US strike outside Baghdad’s International Airport that Iraq’s government slammed as a violation of its sovereignty.

To mark 40 days since their deaths, a tradition in the Middle East, top officials held a memorial service in Baghdad’s high-security Green Zone. 

Hashed chief Faleh Fayyadh, who also serves as Iraq’s national security adviser, attended as did the country’s military chief of staff and interior minister.

“The great crime committed near Baghdad airport against the commanders of victory (was) a crime against humanity, against Iraq, against our sovereignty and the defence of our children,” Fayyadh told those gathered.

“The blood of these martyrs, in my opinion, will re-establish this Hashed … May we be a thorn in the eye of anyone wishing to deprive Iraq of its sovereignty.”

He later told a larger gathering that the Hashed would not be daunted by “a misleading media campaign or by targeting people.”

Notably absent were the country’s outgoing premier Adel Abdel Mahdi, the prime minister-designate Mohammad Allawi and the Hashed’s leading commanders.