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Stampede kills 50 at Soleimani burial in Iran

Fifty people have been killed and more than 200 injured in a stampede as Iranians gathered for the burial of a leading commander killed in a US drone strike.

The deaths in Qasem Soleimani’s hometown of Kerman led to his internment being delayed.

Millions are already estimated to have packed the streets for a series of funeral processions in Iran.

Soleimani’s killing has raised fears of a conflict between the US and Iran.

The head of the Quds force was tasked with defending and projecting Iranian interests abroad, and was hailed as a hero in his home country.

To the US he was a terrorist, and in explaining why he ordered the strike President Trump said he was acting on an “imminent” threat.

It is unclear what caused the stampede in Kerman, south-eastern Iran, but vast numbers of people had been in the streets on Tuesday morning ahead of the planned burial.

A coroner quoted on Iran’s ISNA put the death toll at 50, with those injured numbering more than 200.

Iran’s foreign minister says the US has not pursued de-escalation since killing Soleimani

 

 

In other developments:

  • In Iraq, thousands took to the streets in the southern city of Basra for the funeral procession of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, head of the Kataib Hezbollah militia group who was killed alongside Soleimani. Muhandis was the Iranian’s top adviser and ally in Iraq, and a powerful leader among Iraq’s Shia militias
  • In an interview, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif called Soleimani’s killing an “act of war” and said Iran’s response would be against “legitimate targets”
  • The US reportedly denied a visa for Mr Zarif to visit the UN in New York this week, a move that appears to breach an agreement guaranteeing foreign officials access to the UN headquarters
  • The US has denied it is pulling out of Iraq, after a letter from a US general suggested there would be a withdrawal
  • Iranian parliamentarians have approved a motion designating the US Army and the Pentagon as terrorist organisations, and allocated extra funds for the force once headed by Soleimani

Top Iranian officials have renewed their threats of revenge for the killing.

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

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

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

Who was Qasem Soleimani?

At one stage the theme music to the 1970 US film Love Story was played, something BBC Monitoring say may be more for its sentimentality rather than the film being widely known in Iran.

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

Unconfirmed estimates from Iranian state television put the number who took to the streets of Iran’s capital alone as “millions”. The crowds were large enough to be seen in satellite images.

 

BBC.com

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