A stampede erupted at a funeral procession for a top Iranian general killed in a U.S. airstrike last week, killing 35 people and injuring 48 others, state television reported.
According to the report, the stampede took place in Kerman, the hometown of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, as the procession got underway. Initial videos posted online showed people lying lifeless on a road, others shouting and trying to give help them.
Iranian state TV gave the casualty toll in its online report, without saying where it obtained the information. Pirhossein Koulivand, the head of Iran’s emergency medical services, earlier spoke by telephone to state TV and confirmed the stampede took place.
“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 on Monday drew over 1 million people in the Iranian capital, crowding both main thoroughfares and side streets in Tehran.
The leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard threatened on Tuesday to “set ablaze” places supported by the United States over the killing of a top Iranian general in a U.S. airstrike last week, sparking cries from the crowd of supporters of “Death to Israel!”
Hossein Salami made the pledge before a crowd of thousands gathered in a central square in Kerman, the hometown of the slain Gen. Qassem Soleimani. His vow mirrored the demands of top Iranian officials — from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to others — as well as supporters across the Islamic Republic, demanding retaliation against America for a slaying that’s drastically raised tensions across the Middle East.
Mourners in Kerman dressed in black carried posters bearing the image of Soleimani, a man whose slaying prompted Iran’s supreme leader to weep over his casket on Monday as a crowd said by police to be in the millions filled Tehran streets. Although there was no independent estimate, aerial footage and Associated Press journalists suggested a turnout of at least 1 million, and the throngs were visible on satellite images of Tehran taken Monday.
The outpouring of grief was an unprecedented honor for a man viewed by Iranians as a national hero for his work leading the Guard’s expeditionary Quds Force. The U.S. blames him for the killing of American troops in Iraq and accused him of plotting new attacks just before his death Friday in a drone strike near Baghdad’s airport. Soleimani also led forces in Syria backing President Bashar Assad in a long war, and he also served as the point man for Iranian proxies in countries like Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.
His slaying already has pushed Tehran to abandon the remaining limits of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers as his successor and others vow to take revenge. In Baghdad, the parliament has called for the expulsion of all American troops from Iraqi soil, something analysts fear could allow Islamic State militants to mount a comeback.
Soleimani’s remains and those of the others killed in the airstrike were brought to a central square in Kerman, a desert city surrounded by mountains that dates back to the days of the Silk Road.
Speaking in Kerman, Salami praised 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, Soleimani represented an even greater threat to Iran’s enemies, Salami said.