Video: Stampede Kills 35, Injures 48 on Final Day of Iran's Soleimani Funeral

Published January 7th, 2020 - 10:01 GMT
Iranian mourners gather for the burial of slain top general Qassem Soleimani in his hometown of Kerman on Tuesday. (AFP/ File Photo)
Iranian mourners gather for the burial of slain top general Qassem Soleimani in his hometown of Kerman on Tuesday. (AFP/ File Photo)
State TV said 35 people had been killed and 48 injured after a stampede broke out during the procession.

More than 30 mourners have been killed and dozens injured after a stampede broke out on the final day of Qassem Soleimani's funeral in Iran today.  

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.  

Footage which circulated online appeared to show emergency workers desperately trying to rescue mourners who had been thrown to the ground and badly injured during the stampede.  

The general'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.  

Later the head of Iran's emergency medical services, Pirhossein Koulivand spoke by telephone to state TV and confirmed that a stampede had broken out.    

'Unfortunately as a result of the stampede, some of our compatriots have been injured and some have been killed during the funeral processions,' he said. 

Before the stampede, crowds were waving flags and holding 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.    

Khamenei made a rare appearance at a meeting of the Iranian National Security Council on Monday to plot Iran's response, The New York Times reported. 

In a sign of Iran's fury, the country plans to carry out reprisals itself rather than relying on its proxies in the region as it has frequently done in the past.  

Donald Trump has threatened a 'disproportionate response' targeting cultural sites, brushing off claims that such an action could be considered a war crime. 

The president said America had lined up attacks on 52 targets 'important to Iran and the Iranian culture', representing the number of Americans held hostage at the US embassy in Tehran after a raid in 1979.

Britain yesterday distanced itself from the plan to target cultural sites, pointing to international agreements on preserving cultural heritage. 

Israel has also been lukewarm in its support for Trump, with Benjamin Netanyahu telling his cabinet ministers that Soleimani's death was a matter for Washington and that Israel should 'stay out of it'.  

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warned on Monday that Iran must avoid 'further violence and provocations' after the alliance held emergency talks on the crisis.

The European Union, whose foreign ministers will hold emergency talks on the crisis Friday, said it was in both Iran and Iraq's interests to 'take the path of sobriety and not the path of escalation'. 

Yesterday Khamenei wept in public over Soleimani's coffin at an outpouring of public grief in Tehran where as many as a million people turned out to mourn the general. 

Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif shared pictures of the huge 'sea of humanity' at the funeral - taunting Trump who is famously attentive to crowd sizes. 

Today Zarif said he had been refused a US visa to travel to New York for upcoming meetings at the UN. 

'The world is not limited to New York and you can talk to the American people from Tehran and we will do that,' Zarif declared.  

Authorities later brought Soleimani's remains and those of the others killed in the strike to Iran's holy city of Qom, turning out another massive crowd.  

The scale of the crowds in Tehran mirrored those who turned out in 1989 for the funeral of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic republic.  

Many Iranians considered Soleimani, a decorated veteran of the eight-year war with Iraq, as a national hero, particularly for mobilising Shi'ite Muslim groups in Iraq to help crush the militant Sunni jihadists of ISIS.

The US blames Soleimani for the killing of American troops in Iraq and accused him of plotting new attacks just before his death on Friday. 

Soleimani also led forces in Syria backing President Bashar Assad in a long war, and backed Iranian proxies in Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen. 

In Baghdad, the Iraqi parliament has called for the expulsion of all American troops from Iraqi soil, something analysts fear could allow ISIS militants to mount a comeback.  

On Monday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said no decision had been made about withdrawing troops from Iraq.  

The Pentagon's plans were thrown into confusion when a letter from a US Marine general appeared to show that a withdrawal had been ordered, but it was later declared a mistake.   

'There's been no decision whatsoever to leave Iraq,' Esper said.  

Trump has also warned he will demand billions of dollars in compensation from Iraq or impose 'sanctions like they've never seen before' if Baghdad goes through with expelling U.S. troops. 

Possible sanctions on Iraq would would make those on Iran look 'tame', Trump said, adding: 'We have a very extraordinarily expensive air base that's there... we're not leaving unless they pay us back for it.' 

Meanwhile, Iran's parliament on Tuesday approved a bill designating the United States military and the Pentagon as 'terrorist organizations.'

According to reports on social media, Iranian lawmakers chanted 'Death to America' while voting for passage of the bill.   

On Sunday Iranian state TV said the country would no longer respect any of the nuclear limits in the 2015 nuclear deal, which Trump abandoned last year but which European powers are desperately trying to preserve. 

Under the deal, Tehran had pledged to reduce its nuclear capacities for several years, including by capping its enrichment of uranium at 3.67 percent, far below the more than 90 percent required for a nuclear weapon. 

Iran has already overstepped some of the limits since Trump pulled out of the deal last year, which include restrictions on Iran's supply of centrifuges and the level to which uranium can be enriched.  

Germany also said today it was withdrawing some of its troops deployed as part of the anti-ISIS coalition in Iraq.  

Chancellor Angela Merkel, France's president Emmanuel Macron and British PM Boris Johnson have urged Iraq to not jeopardise the battle against ISIS.

'Preserving the coalition is of great importance in this context. We call on the Iraqi authorities to continue to provide the coalition with the necessary support,' they said.    

This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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