Stampede Kills 56 at Funeral for Iran General Killed in US Airstrike

January 7, 2020 Updated: January 7, 2020
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TEHRAN, Iran—A stampede erupted on Tuesday at a funeral procession for a top Iranian general killed in a U.S. airstrike last week, killing 56 people and injuring 190 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 and others shouting and trying to help them.

Iranian state TV gave the casualty toll in its online report, citing Pirhossein Koulivand, the head of Iran’s emergency medical services.

“Unfortunately as a result of the stampede, some of our compatriots have been injured and some have been killed during the funeral processions,” he earlier said.

Authorities later delayed Soleimani’s burial, citing concerns about the massive crowd that had gathered, the semi-official ISNA news agency said. It did not say when the burial would take place.

A procession in Tehran on Monday drew over a million people in the Iranian capital, crowding both main thoroughfares and side streets in Tehran.

Iran stampede for slain general
Mourners attend a funeral ceremony for Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani on Jan. 6, 2020. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Soleimani’s death has sparked calls across Iran for revenge against America for a slaying that’s drastically raised tensions across the Middle East. The U.S. government warned ships of an unspecified threat from Iran across all the Mideast’s waterways, crucial routes for global energy supplies.

Early Tuesday, the leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard threatened to “set ablaze” places supported by the United States over the killing of Soleimani, 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 before a casket carrying Soleimani’s remains.

The U.S. blames Soleimani 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.

According to a report on Tuesday by the semi-official Tasnim news agency, Iran has worked up 13 sets of plans for revenge for Soleimani’s killing. The report quoted Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, as saying that even the weakest among them would be a “historic nightmare” for the United States. He declined to give any details.

“If the U.S. troops do not leave our region voluntarily and upright, we will do something to carry their bodies horizontally out,” Shamkhani said.

Epoch Times Photo
Iranian people attend a funeral procession and burial for Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force, who was killed in an air strike at Baghdad airport, at his hometown in Kerman, Iran on Jan. 7, 2020. (Mehdi Bolourian/Fars News Agency/WANA/West Asia News Agency via Reuters)

The U.S. Maritime Administration warned Tuesday ships across the Mideast, citing the rising threats after the U.S. killed Soleimani. “The Iranian response to this action, if any, is unknown, but there remains the possibility of Iranian action against U.S. maritime interests in the region,” it said.

Oil tankers were targeted in mine attacks last year that the United States blamed on Iran. Tehran denied being responsible though it did seize oil tankers around the crucial Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which 20 percent of the world’s crude oil travels.

The U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet said it would work with shippers in the region to minimize any possible threat.

The 5th Fleet “has and will continue to provide advice to merchant shipping as appropriate regarding recommended security precautions in light of the heightened tensions and threats in the region,” 5th Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Joshua Frey told The Associated Press.

The U.S. State Department has designated the Revolutionary Guard as a terror organization in the United States. The U.S. Defense Department said the U.S. military took decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Soleimani.

By Nasser Karimi, Amir Vahdat, and Jon Gambrell