Dozens of people have been killed in a stampede in the south-eastern Iranian city of Kerman, where hundreds of thousands of mourners have gathered for the burial of the military commander Qassem Suleimani, according to state media.
Local TV reports said 35 people had been killed and another 48 injured in the crush. A video purportedly from the scene showed a number of mourners lying prostrate on the floor with others rubbing their chests or trying to administer water. Some of those on the ground had their faces covered with jackets or scarves.
Mourners had filled the streets of Suleimani’s home town on Tuesday morning in numbers that appeared to match the huge turnouts in Baghdad, Tehran, Qom, Mashhad and Ahvaz in recent days to say farewell to the commander of the Revolutionary Guards external operations force, who was killed by a US drone strike in Iraq on Friday.
“The martyr Qassem Suleimani is more powerful … now that he is dead,” the Revolutionary Guards’ commander, Maj Gen Hossein Salami, told the sea of black-clad mourners. “The enemy killed him unjustly.”
Mirroring fierce threats of retaliation from across Iran’s leadership since Friday’s assassination, Salami threatened to “set ablaze” American interests in the region, drawing cries of “death to Israel” from the crowd.
People converged from across the region on Kerman’s Azadi Square, where two flag-draped coffins were on display, with the second reportedly containing the remains of Suleimani’s closest aide, Brig Gen Hossein Pourjafari.