UPDATED: Stampede at Iranian general’s funeral death toll at 40

A stampede broke out Tuesday at the funeral of a top Iranian general killed in a US drone strike, leaving more than 40 people dead as huge crowds of mourners packed his hometown.
The crush in the southeastern city of Kerman came as Iran prepared to bury Revolutionary Guards commander Qasem Soleimani, a hugely popular figure in the Islamic republic.
“So far 40 people were killed and 213 others were wounded in the incident,” the semi-official Fars news agency reported on Tuesday, citing an emergency services official.
Earlier, the head of the country’s emergency services, Pirhossein Koolivand, told state television that “32 of our citizens lost their lives in the procession … and 190 were injured” due to “overcrowding”.
The injured were immediately transferred to hospital, he added.
AFP correspondents in Kerman said the streets were packed with mourners, while others took refuge on hillsides around the city.
Soleimani, the head of the Guards’ Quds Force foreign operations arm, was assassinated on Friday in a US strike near Baghdad international airport, an operation that shocked Iran.
“The enemy killed him unjustly,” the Revolutionary Guards’ top commander, Major General Hossein Salami said, adding the process of “expelling the United States from the region has begun”.
“Our will is firm. We also tell our enemies that we will take revenge and that if they (strike again) we will set fire to what they love,” he told the sea of black-clad mourners.
“They themselves know well what places I am talking about.”
Schoolgirls joined chants of “Death to Trump” from the crowd, an AFP correspondent reported.
Tuesday’s funeral comes after days of processions through the southwestern city of Ahvaz and the shrine cities of Qom and Mashhad as well as the capital Tehran.
The assassination of Soleimani set off an escalating war of words between Iran and the United States.
Iranians gathered in Kerman for the burial Tuesday of top general Qasem Soleimani in the final stage of funeral processions after he was killed in a US strike in Iraq.
The massive number of mourners in the hometown of the slain commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force foreign operations arm appeared to match the huge turnout seen in the cities of Tehran, Qom, Mashhad and Ahvaz.
A hugely popular figure in the Islamic republic, Soleimani was killed outside Baghdad airport on Friday in a drone strike ordered by US President Donald Trump, ratcheting up tensions with arch-enemy Iran which has vowed “severe revenge”.
“The martyr Qassem Soleimani is more powerful… now that he is dead,” said the Revolutionary Guards’ top general, Major General Hossein Salami.
“The enemy killed him unjustly,” he told the sea of black-clad mourners.
Schoolgirls joined chants of “Death to Trump” from the crowd, an AFP correspondent reported.
The assassination of Soleimani set off an escalating war of words between Iran and the United States.
In Tehran on Monday, President Hassan Rouhani warned Trump to “never threaten” Iran, after the US leader issued a US strike list of 52 targets in the Islamic republic.

Huge crowds flock to Iranian general Qasem Soleimani’s home town Kerman where he is to be buried after his killing in a US air strike in Baghdad on Friday
Iranians gathered in Kerman for the burial Tuesday of top general Qasem Soleimani in the final stage of funeral processions after he was killed in a US strike in Iraq.
The massive number of mourners in the hometown of the slain commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force foreign operations arm appeared to match the huge turnout seen in the cities of Tehran, Qom, Mashhad and Ahvaz.
A hugely popular figure in the Islamic republic, Soleimani was killed outside Baghdad airport on Friday in a drone strike ordered by US President Donald Trump, ratcheting up tensions with arch-enemy Iran which has vowed “severe revenge”.
“The martyr Qassem Soleimani is more powerful… now that he is dead,” said the Revolutionary Guards’ top general, Major General Hossein Salami.
“The enemy killed him unjustly,” he told the sea of black-clad mourners.
Schoolgirls joined chants of “Death to Trump” from the crowd, an AFP correspondent reported.
The assassination of Soleimani set off an escalating war of words between Iran and the United States.
In Tehran on Monday, President Hassan Rouhani warned Trump to “never threaten” Iran, after the US leader issued a US strike list of 52 targets in the Islamic republic.
Turnout for Soleimani’s funeral commemorations has been enormous in all of the citiers where they have been held
People converged from afar on Azadi Square where two flag-draped coffins were on display, with the second one reportedly containing the remains of Soleimani’s closest aide, Brigadier General Hossein Pourjafari.
“We’re here today to pay respects to the great commander of the holy defence,” said one of the mourners who came from the southern city of Shiraz to attend the funeral in Kerman.
“Haj Qasem was not only loved in Kerman, or Iran, but also the whole world,” Hemmat Dehghan told AFP.
“The security of the whole world, Muslims, Shiites, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and especially Iran, all owe it to him,” said the 56-year-old war veteran.
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.
Military escalation
Friday’s assassination of the 62-year-old Soleimani heightened international concern about a new war in the volatile Middle East and rattled financial markets.
Iraq’s parliament has demanded the government expel the 5,200 American troops stationed in the country in response to the drone attack which also killed top Iraqi military figure Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
Baghdad requested in a letter to the UN — seen by AFP — that the Security Council condemn the US drone strike, so that “the law of the jungle” was not allowed to prevail.
The operation represented “a dangerous escalation that could lead to a devastating war in Iraq, the region and the world,” wrote the Iraqi ambassador to the UN, Mohammed Hussein Bahr-Aluloom.
World financial markets have been on edge over the crisis.
“The new year has started with a bang in so far as volatility is concerned,” said Fawad Razaqzada at Forex.com.This is mainly due to the escalation of tensions between the US and Iran after Trump ordered the assassination of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani.”
On Sunday night, the United States mistakenly notified the Iraqi government of an imminent troop pullout in a letter that sparked confusion in Washington.
“We respect your sovereign decision to order our departure,” said the letter, whose authenticity was confirmed to AFP by both Iraqi and US defence officials.
In the letter, US Brigadier General William Seely said the US-led coalition would “be repositioning forces”.
But Pentagon Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley said the letter was a mere “draft” and “should not have been sent.”
“It was a mistake, an honest mistake, a draft unsigned letter, because we are moving forces around,” Milley told reporters in Washington.
US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said the letter was “inconsistent” with Washington’s position and denied there had been a decision to leave Iraq.
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”.
Saudi Arabia — an oil-rich US ally seen as vulnerable to Iranian counter strikes — also appealed for calm after a “very dangerous” escalation.
Soleimani is expected to be buried at the martyrs’ cemetery in Kerman.
Afp