More than 50 people were crushed to death Tuesday at the funeral of a top Iranian military commander, Qassem Soleimani, in the southeastern city of Kerman, Iranian media reported, citing a morgue count.
The tragedy left 212 people injured, a small number of whom were in a serious condition, semi-official news agency ISNA added, citing Kerman’s emergency services chief Mohammad Saberi.
A hugely popular figure in Iran, Soleimani was assassinated 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 massive number of mourners in the hometown of the slain commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ foreign operations arm appeared to match the huge turnout seen in the cities of Tehran, Qom, Mashhad and Ahvaz.
“The enemy assassinated 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.
The assassination of Soleimani set off an escalating war of words between Iran and the United States.
In Tehran, President Hassan Rouhani on Monday warned Trump to “never threaten” Iran, after the US leader issued a US strike list of 52 targets in the Islamic republic.
On Tuesday, Iranian lawmakers voted to designate all US forces around the world “terrorists” over Soleimani’s assassination.
Parliament also agreed to bolster the coffers of the Quds Force, which Soleimani led, by $244 million (200 million euros).