JEDDAH: After more than 20 years of wreaking death and destruction throughout the Middle East, Iranian warlord Qassem Soleimani claimed his final victims on Tuesday — at least 56 people crushed to death at his own funeral.
More than 200 were injured when the procession through Soleimani’s home city of Kerman in southeast Iran descended into chaos. As the truck carrying his coffin edged slowly forward, thousands in the crowd were pushed off the street and into a narrow side alley, where dozens of men, women and children were trampled and crushed to death.
“Some held hands together, trying to open a path to the street,” one witness said. “But there were so many people in the alley, all thrown on top of each other, and killed.”
Soleimani was head of the overseas Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), responsible for setting up and controlling Iran’s network of proxy militias and armed groups in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. His death in a US drone missile strike near Baghdad airport last Friday has led to an exchange of threats between Washington and Tehran, and heightened tensions throughout the region.
“We will take revenge, a hard and definitive revenge,” IRGC chief Gen. Hossein Salami told the crowds at the funeral in Kerman.
Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, said 13 “revenge scenarios” were being considered. Even the weakest option would be “a historic nightmare for the Americans,” he said.
US President Donald Trump has promised to target 52 Iranian sites if Iran retaliates for Soleimani’s death.
In Iraq, where Parliament has demanded the government expel all 5,200 US troops in response to the drone attack, Baghdad asked the UN Security Council to condemn the US strike so that “the law of the jungle” does not prevail.
The attack was “a dangerous escalation that could lead to a devastating war in Iraq, the region and the world,” said Iraq’s UN ambassador Mohammed Hussein Bahr-Aluloom.
Iran-backed armed factions in Iraq threatened “a war against the American presence in all parts of the region that we can reach,” and called for a meeting of anti-US militias to decide on their next step.
“We will regroup the forces of the resistance in a single entity to respond to Washington,” said Nasr Al-Shammary, deputy head of Harakat Al-Nujaba, one of the most hardline factions of Iraq’s Hashd Al-Shaabi paramilitary network. Another militia leader, Qais Al-Khazali, told US forces that his fighters would “turn the skies above you into hell.”
The foreign ministers of Britain, France, Germany and Italy, plus the EU diplomatic chief, met in Brussels for emergency talks on Iran.