40 dead at Iran general burial after a stampede

Wednesday, January 8th, 2020 00:00 |
Iranians gather around a vehicle carrying the coffin of slain top general Qasem Soleimani in his hometown Kerman yesterday. Photo/AFP

Kerman, Tuesday

A stampede broke out Tuesday at the funeral of a top Iranian general killed in a US drone strike, leaving 40 people dead and many injured as huge crowds packed his hometown.

The crush in the southeastern city of Kerman came as Iran prepared to bury Revolutionary Guards commander Qasem Soleimani, a hugely popular figure in the Islamic republic.

The deaths led to the postponement of Qasem Soleimani’s interment. A new time will be announced later, officials say.

“Two hundred and thirteen people have been injured and 40 lost their lives because of overcrowding at the funeral procession,” the head of the country’s emergency services, Pirhossein Koolivand, told state TV.

Journalists in Kerman said the streets were filled with mourners, while others took refuge on hillsides around the city, where the general was to be laid to rest at the martyrs’ cemetery. 

Unconfirmed estimates from Iranian state television put the number who took to the streets of Iran’s capital alone as “millions”.

Expel US

Soleimani, the head of the Guards’ Quds Force foreign operations arm, was assassinated on Friday in a US strike near Baghdad international airport, an operation that shocked Iran.

“The enemy killed him unjustly,” the Revolutionary Guards’ top commander, Major General Hossein Salami said, adding the process of “expelling the United States from the region has begun”.

“Our will is firm. We also tell our enemies that we will take revenge, and that if they (strike again) we will set fire to what they love,” he told the sea of black-clad mourners. “They themselves know well what places I am talking about.”

Other senior figures have said Iran will match the scale of Soleimani’s killing when it responds but that it will choose the time and place.

Tuesday’s funeral followed days of processions through the southwestern city of Ahvaz and the shrine cities of Qom and Mashhad as well as the capital Tehran.

The assassination of Soleimani set off an escalating war of words between Iran and the United States.

In Tehran, President Hassan Rouhani on Monday warned Trump to “never threaten” Iran, after the US leader issued a US strike list of 52 targets in the Islamic republic.

On Tuesday, Iranian lawmakers voted to designate all US forces around the world “terrorists” over Soleimani’s killing.

Parliament also agreed to bolster the coffers of the Quds Force, which Soleimani led, by $244 million. -AFP

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