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‘50 killed in stampede’ at funeral procession for Iranian general

Packed streets: Thousands gathered to pay their respects to General Soleimani  PICTURE: AFP

A STAMPEDE has erupted at a funeral procession for the Iranian general who died in a US air strike last week, killing 50 people and injuring more than 200, according to reports.

The stampede took place in Kerman, the home town of General Qasem Soleimani, as the procession got under way. Videos posted online showed people lying lifeless on a road.

Pirhossein Koulivand, head of Iran’s emergency medical services, earlier spoke by phone to state TV and confirmed the stampede.

‘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.

A procession in Tehran yesterday drew more than a million people in the Iranian capital.

Gen Soleimani’s death has drastically raised tensions across the Middle East, sparking calls across Iran for revenge against America.

Early today, the leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard threatened to ‘set ablaze’ places supporting the US, prompting cries of ‘death to Israel’ from the crowd.

Hossein Salami made the pledge before a crowd of thousands gathered around Gen Soleimani’s coffin in a central square in Kerman.

The outpouring of grief was an unprecedented honour for a man viewed by Iranians as a national hero for his work leading the Guard’s expeditionary Quds Force.

The US blames him for the killing of American troops in Iraq and accused him of plotting new attacks just before his death on Friday in a drone strike near Baghdad’s international airport.

Gen Soleimani also led forces in Syria backing president Bashar Assad in a long war, and served as a go-between for Tehran in countries including Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.

His killing has pushed Tehran to abandon its 2015 nuclear deal as his successor and others vowed to take revenge. The Baghdad parliament has called for the expulsion of all American troops from Iraqi soil, something analysts fear could allow Daesh militants to mount a comeback.

Speaking in Kerman, Mr Salami praised Gen Soleimani’s exploits, describing him as essential to backing Palestinian groups, Yemen’s Houthi rebels and Shiite militias in Iraq and Syria. As a martyr, Gen Soleimani represents an even greater threat to Iran’s enemies, he added.

According to a report by the semi-official Tasnim news agency today, Iran has worked up 13 sets of plans for revenge for Gen Soleimani’s killing. The report quoted Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, as saying that even the weakest among them would be a ‘historic nightmare’ for the US, but declined to give any details.

‘If the US troops do not leave our region voluntarily and upright, we will do something to carry their bodies horizontally out,’ Mr Shamkhani said.

Iran’s parliament passed an urgent bill declaring the US military’s command at the Pentagon and those acting on its behalf in Gen Soleimani’s killing as ‘terrorists’ subject to Iranian sanctions.

The measure appears to be an attempt to mirror a decision by US president Donald Trump in April to declare the Revolutionary Guard a ‘terrorist organisation’.

The US Defence Department used the designation to support the strike that killed Gen Soleimani.

He will be buried later today between the graves of two former Guard comrades, Enayatollah Talebizadeh and Mohammad Hossein Yousef Elahi, who died in Iran’s 1980s war with Iraq.