No fewer than 35 persons have been reportedly killed and many more injured after a stampede broke out at the final day of Iranian general Qassem Suleimani’s funeral in Iran.
Iran’s farewell to the general descended into chaos after thousands of people thronged to his home town of Kerman, where he is due to be buried later.
With a sea of mourners rushing to see Soleimani’s coffin, state TV said a stampede had broken out which left 35 people dead and 48 injured.
Soleimani’s death in a US drone strike on Friday has sparked a huge outpouring of grief and Iran today renewed its vows of revenge against America, which regarded the general as a terrorist leader.
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who yesterday wept in public over Soleimani’s casket, has ordered his country’s forces to retaliate directly against US interests rather than relying on its proxies in the region.
Tehran says it has lined up 13 ‘revenge scenarios’ and revolutionary guards leader Hossein Salami told the crowds today that Iran would ‘set ablaze’ US allies.
US forces are braced for a reprisal but their future in the Middle East was thrown into confusion yesterday when a letter confirming a withdrawal from Iraq was apparently circulated by mistake.
Donald Trump has vowed to retaliate if Iran strikes against US targets, despite lukewarm support from his allies including Israel which today declared its intention to ‘stay out of it’.
In Kerman, mourners dressed in black converged on Azadi Square where Soleimani’s coffin and that of his closest aide Hossein Pourjafari were on display.
Crowds waved flags and held up pictures of Soleimani as they mourned a man who was regarded as a national hero by many Iranians.
Schoolgirls were heard shouting ‘death to Trump’ while crowds chanted ‘death to Israel’ when Hossein Salami swore revenge on Washington.
‘The martyr Qassem Soleimani is more powerful… now that he is dead,’ the revolutionary guards leader told mourners today.
‘The enemy killed him unjustly. We will take revenge. We will set ablaze where they like,’ Salami said, drawing cries of ‘Death to Israel!’
One mourner, Hemmat Dehghan, said he had travelled from the southern city of Shiraz to ‘pay respects to the great commander of the holy defence’.
‘[Soleimani] was not only loved in Kerman, or Iran, but also the whole world,’ the 56-year-old war veteran said. ‘The security of the whole world, Muslims, Shiites, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and especially Iran, all owe it to him.’
Another mourner said Soleimi’s assassination ‘boils the blood of the Iranian people’.
‘He was seen as a great man who was ready to serve his people both then in the war and now. He must certainly be avenged,’ said Sara Khaksar, an 18-year-old student.
Soleimani’s death already has pushed Tehran to abandon the remaining limits of its 2015 nuclear deal, and a series of top Iranian officials have sworn revenge on Washington.
Today the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council said the country had lined up 13 ‘revenge scenarios’ in retaliation for Soleimani’s death.
‘The Americans should know that until now 13 revenge scenarios have been discussed in the council and even if there is consensus on the weakest scenario carrying it out can be a historic nightmare for the Americans,’ Ali Shamkhani said.
American forces are braced for retaliation and the US-led coalition against ISIS said in a statement that it was pausing its fight against the jihadists to shore up its own defences.
One official said the US anticipated a ‘major’ attack of some type within the next day or two.
US bases in the region are shoring up their defences and there are also fears that Iran will harass shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, which is critical to the world’s oil supply.
The global benchmark for crude oil rose above $70 a barrel on Monday for the first time in over three months, with jitters rising over the escalating military tensions.
One Iranian MP also warned of an attack on the White House while an adviser to Hassan Rouhani posted a list of Trump-owned properties in a hint of a possible reprisal.
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