Iranian state television has reported 50 people have been killed and 213 others injured in a stampede at a funeral procession for slain general Qassem Soleimani.
- Qassem Soleimani’s remains have reached his hometown in Kerman for burial
- The burial has been delayed after a stampede among the tens of thousands of people filling the streets killed 40 people
- Iran has vowed revenge against the US over the killing of General Soleimani
The stampede erupted in Kerman, the hometown of General Soleimani, where the procession was underway on Tuesday (local time).
General Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, was killed along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the Deputy Commander of Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) and several other people in a US drone strike near Baghdad’s airport on Friday (local time).
Initial videos of the procession posted online showed people lying lifeless on a road, others shouting and trying to help them.
Iranian state TV gave the casualty toll in its online report, without saying where it obtained the information.
Pirhossein Koulivand, the head of Iran’s emergency medical services, earlier spoke by telephone to state TV and confirmed the stampede took place.
“Unfortunately, as a result of the stampede, some of our compatriots have been injured and some have been killed during the funeral processions,” he said.
Authorities later delayed General Soleimani’s burial, citing concerns about the massive crowd that had gathered, the semi-official ISNA news agency said. It did not say when the burial would take place.
Coffins of Qassem Soleimani and others are carried on a truck surrounded by mourners during a funeral procession at the Enqelab-e-Eslami (Islamic Revolution) square in Tehran, Iran. (AP: Ebrahim Noroozi)
Early on Tuesday, tens of thousands of mourners dressed in black carried posters bearing the image of General Soleimani — a man whose slaying prompted Iran’s Supreme Leader to weep over his casket on Monday (local time) as a crowd said by police to be in the millions filled Tehran’s streets.
Speaking in Kerman, Major General Hossein Salami — who leads the Republican Guards — praised General Soleimani’s exploits, describing him as essential to backing Palestinian groups, Yemen’s Houthi rebels and Shiite militias in Iraq and Syria.
As a martyr, General Soleimani represented an even greater threat to Iran’s enemies, Major General Salami said.
“We will take revenge. We will set ablaze where they like,” he said, drawing the cries of “Death to Israel!”
The US blames General Soleimani for the killing of American troops in Iraq and accused him of plotting new attacks just before his death on Friday in a drone strike near Baghdad’s airport. He also led forces in Syria backing President Bashar Assad and he also served as the point man for Iranian proxies in countries like Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.
General Soleimani’s death has sparked calls across Iran for revenge against America for a slaying that’s drastically raised tensions across the Middle East.
His slaying has pushed Tehran to abandon the remaining limits of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
In Baghdad, the parliament has called for the expulsion of all American troops from Iraqi soil, something analysts fear could allow Islamic State militants to mount a comeback.
According to a report on Tuesday by the semi-official Tasnim news agency, Iran has worked up 13 sets of plans for revenge for General Soleimani’s killing.
The report quoted Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, as saying that even the weakest among them would be a “historic nightmare” for the US. However, he declined to give any details.
“If the US troops do not leave our region voluntarily and upright, we will do something to carry their bodies horizontally out,” Mr Shamkhani said.