At least 56 people were killed in a stampede in Iran on Tuesday as tens of thousands of mourners packed streets for the funeral of military commander Qassem Soleimani who was killed by a US drone strike in Baghdad last Friday, Reuters reports.
The stampede happened in Kerman, Soleimani’s hometown in southeastern Iran, as the slain general was laid to rest after three days of national mourning.
Also, the incident left more than 210 people injured, according an emergency official quoted by Iran’s 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.
Soleimani’s body had been taken to holy Shi’ite Muslim cities in Iraq and Iran, as well as the Iranian capital, Tehran, before arriving for burial in Kerman cemetery’s “martyrs section”.
In each place, huge numbers of people filled thoroughfares, chanting: “Death to America” and weeping with emotion. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wept as he led prayers in Tehran.
Representatives from groups including the Palestinian Islamist Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah attended funeral events in Tehran.?
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the United States should anticipate retaliation from Iran over last week’s killing of the elite Quds Force commander Soleimani.
“We’re prepared for any contingency. And then we will respond appropriately to whatever they do.”
Soleimani, a pivotal figure in orchestrating Iran’s long-standing campaign to drive US forces out of Iraq, was also responsible for building up Tehran’s network of proxy armies across the Middle East.
He was a national hero to many Iranians, but viewed as a dangerous villain by Western governments opposed to Iran’s arc of influence running across the Levant and into the Gulf region.
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