KERMAN/BAGHDAD • At least 50 people were killed and over 200 injured in a stampede as mourners packed the streets for the funeral of a slain Iranian military commander in his home town yesterday, forcing his burial to be postponed, state-affiliated media reported.
Tens of thousands of people had gathered in the south-eastern city of Kerman to pay tribute to Major-General Qassem Soleimani, whose killing in a United States drone strike in Iraq last Friday plunged the region into a new crisis and raised fears of a broader conflict.
"No compromise, no submission, revenge!" the mourners yelled as they tried to catch a glimpse of the casket containing Maj-Gen Soleimani's remains.
As the funeral cortege passed, the mourners threw their scarves on top of the truck carrying the casket to have them blessed by the blood of a "martyr".
The crowd slowly shifted as the military truck carrying the remains of the general and his companions edged forward.
Emotions ran high as calls for revenge grew.
"He was a father to us all... a father we all trusted and had pride in," said a teary-eyed woman who said she had been at the ceremony since early morning.
War veteran Hemmat Dehghan said: "He was a great man. We can't all be like him... It's near impossible to replace him, but his flag won't fall."
The stampede broke out amid the crush of mourners. People were seen taking refuge on hillsides around the city, in footage broadcast on state television.
About 50 people were killed, Iran's Isna news agency reported, quoting the chief coroner for Kerman province, Mr Abbas Amian. About 213 people were injured, an emergency services official told the semi-official Fars news agency.
Isna said the burial of Maj-Gen Soleimani had been postponed, but did not say how long any delay would last.
The commander's body had been taken to Ahvaz, Teheran, Qom and Mashhad before arriving in Kerman for burial.
Maj-Gen Soleimani, who commanded the elite Quds Force, was responsible for building up Teheran's network of proxy armies across the Middle East. He was a key figure in orchestrating Iran's longstanding campaign to drive US forces out of Iraq.
He was widely seen as Iran's second-most powerful figure behind Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who had vowed "severe revenge".
Iran's Parliament passed a Bill yesterday designating as "terrorists" all US forces and employees of the Pentagon and affiliated organisations, agents and commanders and those who ordered the "martyrdom" of Maj-Gen Soleimani.
Mr Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, said 13 "revenge scenarios" were being considered, Fars news agency reported. Even the weakest option would prove "a historic nightmare for the Americans", he said.
Iran, whose coastline runs along a Gulf oil shipping route that includes the narrow Strait of Hormuz, has allied forces across the Middle East through which it can act.
Representatives from those groups, including the Palestinian group Hamas and Lebanon's Hizbollah movement, attended funeral events in Teheran.
Analysts say that despite its strident rhetoric, Iran will want to avoid any conventional conflict with the US and will likely focus on asymmetric strikes, such as sabotage or other military action via proxies.
US President Donald Trump has promised to target 52 Iranian sites if Iran retaliates.
Friction between Iran and the US has risen since Washington withdrew in 2018 from a nuclear deal between Teheran and other world powers.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE