By NASSER KARIMI, AMIR VAHDAT and JON GAMBRELL
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — A stampede broke out Tuesday at a funeral for a top Iranian general killed in a U.S. airstrike, and at least 40 people were killed and more than 200 were injured as thousands thronged the procession, two Iranian news agencies reported.
The stampede took place in Kerman, the hometown of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, as the procession began, said the semi-official Fars and ISNA news agencies, citing Pirhossein Koulivand, head of Iran’s emergency medical services.
There was no information as to what had set off the stampede. Online videos showed people lying apparently lifeless, their faces covered by clothing. Emergency crews performed CPR on others as people wailed in the background, crying out to God.
“Unfortunately as a result of the stampede, some of our compatriots have been injured and some have been killed during the funeral processions,” Koulivand said. The news agencies gave the death toll of 40, with 213 injured.
Soleimani’s burial was later delayed, with no new time given. Authorities cited concerns about the massive crowd that had gathered as a reason for the delay, the semi-official ISNA news agency 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. Such mass crowds can prove dangerous. A similar stampede, though on a much smaller scale, struck the 1989 funeral procession for Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, killing at least eight people and injuring hundreds.
Soleimani’s death in a drone strike on Friday has sparked calls across Iran for revenge against America, drastically raising tensions across the Middle East. The U.S. government warned ships of an unspecified threat from Iran across the region’s waterways, crucial routes for global energy supplies. Meanwhile, the U.S. Air Force launched a drill with 52 fighter jets in Utah, just days after President Donald Trump threatened to hit 52 sites in Iran.
Earlier in the day, Hossein Salami, the new leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, vowed to avenge Soleimani’s death as he addressed a crowd of supporters gathered at the coffin in a central square in Kernan.
“We tell our enemies that we will retaliate but if they take another action we will set ablaze the places that they like and are passionate about,” Salami said.
“Death to Israel!” the crowd shouted in response. Israel is a longtime regional foe of Iran.
The funeral processions in major cities over three days have been an unprecedented honor for Soleimani, viewed by Iranians as a national hero for his work leading the Guard’s expeditionary Quds Force.
The U.S. blames him for killing U.S. troops in Iraq and accused him of plotting new attacks just before he was killed in the drone strike near Baghdad’s airport. Soleimani also led forces supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad in that country’s civil 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 …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Politics