Iran: At least 50 Killed ,213 Injured at Late Gen.Soleimani’s Funeral
At least 50 people were killed in a stampede as tens of thousands of mourners packed streets for the funeral of a slain Iranian military commander in his hometown on Tuesday, forcing his burial to be delayed by several hours, state media said.
General Qassem Soleimani’s burial began in late afternoon in the southeastern Iranian city of Kerman, four days after his killing in a U.S. drone strike in Iraq that plunged the region into a new crisis and raised fears of broader conflict.
“A few minutes ago his body was transferred to the martyrs section of Kerman cemetery,” the semi-official news agency ISNA reported, adding that Soleimani’s interment had begun.
A senior Iranian official said Tehran was considering several scenarios to avenge his killing. 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 stampede broke out amid the crush of mourners, killing 50 people, Iran’s ISNA news agency said, quoting the chief coroner for Kerman province, Abbas Amian. About 213 people were injured, an emergency services official told the semi-official Fars news agency.
“Today because of the heavy congestion of the crowd unfortunately a number of our fellow citizens who were mourning were injured and a number were killed,” emergency medical services chief Pirhossein Kolivand told state television.
The body of Soleimani, a national hero to many Iranians but viewed as a dangerous villain by Western governments opposed to the Islamic Republic, had been taken to Iraqi and Iranian cities before arriving in Kerman for burial.
In each place, huge numbers of people filled thoroughfares, chanting “Death to America” and weeping with emotion. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei shed tears when leading prayers in Tehran.
Iranian people attend a funeral procession and burial for Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force, who was killed in an air strike at Baghdad airport, at his hometown in Kerman, Iran January 7, 2020. Mehdi Bolourian/Fars News Agency/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
Soleimani, who commanded the elite Quds Force, was responsible for building up Tehran’s network of proxy armies across the Middle East. He was a key figure in orchestrating Iran’s long-standing campaign to drive U.S. forces out of Iraq.
Iran’s opponents say its proxies have fueled conflicts, killing and displacing people in Iraq, Syria and beyond. Tehran says any operations abroad are at the request of governments and that it offers “advisory support”.
The U.S. defense secretary denied reports the U.S. military was preparing to withdraw from Iraq, where Tehran has vied with Washington for influence since the 2003 U.S. invasion.