Iran, Islamic Republic Of
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 were taken to his hometown for burial
- But the ceremony was delayed when a stampede among the tens of thousands of people filling the streets killed 50 people
- Iran has vowed revenge against the US over the assassination
The stampede erupted as tens of thousands of people gathered for the funeral in Kerman, General Soleimani’s hometown, on Tuesday.
General Soleimani was the head of the elite Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and had long been seen by Israel and the US as one of the most dangerous and potent figures in the region.
He was killed by a US drone strike near Baghdad’s airport last week, along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the Deputy Commander of Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), and several other people.
Initial videos of the funeral 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)
General Soleimani had also been remembered in mass processions across Iran on Monday, with millions of people on the streets of the capital Tehran, where Iran’s Supreme Leader wept over General Soleimani’s casket.
Speaking in Kerman, Major General Hossein Salami — who leads the Republican Guard — 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, 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 it killed him on Friday.
He also led forces backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and served as the point man for Iranian proxies in countries like Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.
His assassination has drastically raised tensions across the Middle East and sparked calls across Iran for revenge against America.
Tehran has since abandoned 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.