Soleimani: Stampede kills at least 35 mourners in the burial

At least 35 people have been killed in a stampede as Iranians flocked to the burial of a top commander killed in a US drone strike, Iranian media report.

Over 48 others were injured in the incident in Kerman, according to the reports.

Qasem Soleimani is being laid to rest in his hometown with millions already estimated to have packed the roads for funeral processions.

His killing has raised fears of a battle between the US and Iran.

Soleimani was widely regarded as the second most powerful man in Iran behind Supreme Leader Khamenei. The US saw him as a terrorist and a threat to American troops.

Soleimani funeral death
Soleimani funeral death

President Trump adopted a tough stance against Iran after his election and Tehran reacted with their own effort. Tensions were raised further a month after the US attacked an Iranian-backed militia in Iraq it blamed for attacks on US forces.

What triggered the stamped in Kerman, south-eastern Iran, is unclear but vast numbers of individuals were again seen in the streets ahead of Soleimani’s burial.

In other developments:

The US has denied a visa for Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to visit the UN in New York later this week. Such a move would seemingly breach an agreement guaranteeing foreign officials access to the UN headquarters

Speaking at a conference in Tehran Mr Zarif said the US had”gambled big and made a miscalculation” by assassinating Soleimani

Germany is withdrawing a few of soldiers stationed in Iraq as part of the coalition fighting Islamic State

The US denied it was pulling out of Iraq, after a letter by a US general suggested there would be a withdrawal

Iranian parliamentarians have accepted a motion designating the US Army and the Pentagon as terrorist organisations. It has also allocated extra funds for the force once headed by Soleimani

Soleimani’s burial saw top Iranian officials renew their threats of revenge.

“The martyr Qassem Soleimani is more powerful… now that he is dead,” said the Revolutionary Guards’ top general, Major General Hossein Salami, told crowds in Kerman.

The Guards were set up to defend Iran’s Islamic system and are a significant political and military force.

Mourners chanted”death to America” and”death to Trump”, reporters there said.

“He [Soleimani] was seen as a terrific man who was prepared to serve his people… He must definitely be avenged,” an 18-year-old student who was there told the AFP news agency.

On Monday, Ayatollah Khamenei led prayers at Soleimani’s funeral in Tehran, at one point weeping over his coffin.

Unconfirmed quotes from Iranian state television set the number who took to the streets of Iran’s capital as”millions”. The crowds were big enough they could be seen in satellite images.

Who was Qasem Soleimani?

Soleimani was head of the Quds force, the overseas branch of the Revolutionary Guards. He was killed leaving Baghdad airport on Friday.

But he was a hardliner and a dominant force in a state that shot dead scores of protesters at the end of 2019.

In his homeland, Soleimani was hailed as a national hero.

Soleimani supported Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s civil conflict, aided the Shia militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon, and directed Iraqi militia groups against the Islamic State group.

Justifying the attack President Trump said Soleimani was plotting”imminent” attacks on US diplomats and military personnel.

What’s happened since his death?

Immediately following his death, Iran threatened retaliation.

On Sunday, Iran announced it would no longer abide by some of the constraints imposed by the 2015 atomic deal. The deal limited Iranian nuclear capacities in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

Following warnings from Iran, Mr Trump said that the US would react in the event of retaliation for Soleimani’s death,” possibly in a disproportionate manner”.

Trump government officials, however, have contradicted the US president his threat to target Iranian cultural sites.

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