At least 50 people were killed and hundreds injured in a stampede during the funeral procession of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in his hometown Kerman, Reuters reported on Tuesday quoting Iran’s ISNA news agency. A video purportedly from the scene showed many mourners lying on the floor, with others rubbing their chests or administering CPR.
Reuters said ISNA news agency quoted the coroner’s office for Kerman province, Abbas Amian, to report the toll as 50.
The United States assassinated Soleimani, who was the head of the elite Quds force, in a drone strike on January 3. After the strike, US President Donald Trump described Soleimani as a mass murderer. Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iran-backed militias known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces, was also killed in the attack.
There have been major protests in Iran following Soleimani’s death. Pir-Hossein Kolivand, the head of Iran’s Emergency Medical Services, said many were taken to hospitals in Kerman with injuries. The stampede took place because of overcrowding as hundreds of thousands of mourners joined the procession.
Kolivand, however, did not mention the number of deaths or injuries. He said Health Minister Saeid Namak was present at the scene and was monitoring the situation. “Unfortunately as a result of the stampede, some of our compatriots have been injured and some have been killed during the funeral processions,” Al Jazeera quoted the official as saying.
The news network also reported that many people who were unable to attend protest gatherings in the last few days made their way to the final procession.
The White House on Tuesday denied a visa to Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to attend a United Nations Security Council meeting in New York on Thursday. Zarif, in response, claimed: “They fear that someone comes to the US and reveals realities.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Iran designated all United States forces terrorists for killing the general. Iran has vowed to take revenge for the US’ actions.
On Monday, hundreds of thousands of mourners had gathered in Tehran to pay their respects to Soleimani. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei led the prayers, and even wept at one point. Soleimani’s daughter Zeinab told the crowd: “The families of US soldiers in the Middle East will spend their days waiting for death of their children.”
After the drone strike, Trump alleged that Soleimani had contributed to “terror plots as far away as New Delhi and London”. He promised “major retaliation” if Iran tries to avenge the killing, and threatened to bomb Iranian cultural sites. But United States Secretary of Defense Mark Esper ruled out the possibility of the US attacking cultural sites in Iran, saying it would constitute a war crime.
On Sunday, Iran had decided to no longer respect any limits on its nuclear activities set by a 2015 deal with major world powers. The US, then under Barack Obama, was among six countries that had signed the nuclear deal, lifting crippling sanctions on the West Asian country.