At least 40 mourners have been killed in a stampede that has caused the burial of Iran’s top military commander to be postponed, the semi-official Iranian news agency ISNA reports.
More than a million people have taken to the streets for the funeral procession of Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a US airstrike near Baghdad airport on Friday.
The stampede has also left 213 people injured in the general’s hometown Kerman, where he was due to be buried in a “martyrs’ cemetery” on Tuesday.
Iranian state TV gave the number of fatalities and injuries in its online report, citing the head of the country’s emergency medical services.
It is not clear when Maj Gen Soleimani’s burial will now take place.
Mourners have gathered in Kerman as a top Iranian security official said Tehran is considering 13 “revenge scenarios” after the drone strike on the general, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.
Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, said: “The Americans should know that until now 13 revenge scenarios have been discussed in the council and even if there is consensus on the weakest scenario carrying it out can be a historic nightmare for the Americans.”
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Image: Thousands turned out for the funeral of Maj Gen Soleimani
Meanwhile, a senior Iranian official has said the country is “ready to come back to full compliance” in the nuclear agreement it has with a group of world powers.
Deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqchi did not provide any information on possible conditions.
Although Donald Trump has defended the US attack, the fury generated by Maj Gen Soleimani’s death in both Iran and Iraq has led to the US-led coalition scaling back its operations in Baghdad.
American soldiers are set to be “repositioned” after Iraq’s parliament called for all 5,000 US troops to leave the country – and a letter seen by Reuters suggests the US will move its forces over the “coming days and weeks”.
However, US Defence Secretary Mark Esper said there had been “no decision whatsoever to leave Iraq”.
Image: The streets of Kerman are filled with mourners ahead of the general’s burial
Image: Maj Gen Qassem Soleimani was killed in a US airstrike in Baghdad on Friday
Sky News correspondent Mark Stone said: “We understand around 1,100 forces in the green zone in Baghdad will be thinned out by a half or so.
“Some will be relocated within in Iraq, others in Kuwait.
UK looking to ‘de-escalate Iran tensions’
“The plan we’re told is that at some stage they will come back. The rest of the coalition forces in Iraq will remain.”
Reuters says the letter is from William H Seely III, the American commander of Task Force Iraq, and that it has been independently verified.
Image: The US defence secretary strongly denied the country was pulling out of Iraq
Top US general Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also sought to play down the letter.
He said it was poorly worded and incorrectly implied withdrawal, when it was only meant to draw attention to increased troop movements.
The leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has threatened to “set ablaze” places supported by the US over the killing of Maj Gen Soleimani.
Hossein Salami made the pledge before thousands gathered in a central square in Kerman on Tuesday.
He said Maj Gen Soleimani represented an even greater threat to Iran’s enemies as a martyr, including to the country’s longtime regional enemy Israel.
‘Who will take revenge for my father’s blood?’
Mr Salami said: “We will take revenge. We will set ablaze where they like.”
His words drew cries of “death to Israel”.
Mr Salami’s vow mirrored the demands of top Iranian officials such as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as well as supporters across the Islamic Republic, who are demanding retaliation against the US for the killing.
Police said millions of people lined the streets of the Iranian capital Tehran as Maj Gen Soleimani’s coffin was paraded through the city on Monday.
Who was Qassem Soleimani?
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wept during prayers for the general – and the commander’s daughter warned that the US and Israel faced a “dark day”.
The outpouring of grief was an unprecedented honour for a man was regarded by many as the second-most powerful person in Iran.
Huge crowds accompany General Soleimani’s coffin
He led the Quds unit of Iran’s revolutionary guard and was responsible for expanding the country’s influence in the Middle East – mainly through linked Shia militias.
The US blames him for the killing of American troops in Iraq and accused him of plotting new attacks just before his death Friday.
President Donald Trump ordered last week’s strike on the general after the death of an American contractor in Iraq.
Mr Trump has hit back at Iran’s vow of “severe revenge” by warning that the US military has identified 52 Iranian sites, including some of cultural significance.
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US officials are bracing for Iran to respond to the killing of Maj Gen Soleimani, noting heightened military readiness in the country and preparing for a possible “tit-for-tat” attempt on the life of an American military commander.
They warned ships across Middle East waterways crucial to global energy supplies about the “possibility of Iranian action” against US maritime interests in the region.
While officials say American intelligence isn’t clear on whether Iran’s latest military moves are designed to bolster Tehran’s defences or prepare for an offensive strike, the US is continuing to reinforce its own positions in the region, including repositioning some forces.
One official said the US anticipated a “major” attack of some type within the next day or two.
Britain has reduced staff at its embassies in Iran and Iraq to a minimum level as a precaution, Sky News understands.
The UK’s ambassadors are believed to be staying put.
Boris Johnson’s spokesman has also tried to distance Britain from the US president’s rhetoric.
Iran’s supreme leader cries at Soleimani prayers
The prime minister said Britain believed the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran should be preserved, and there were “international conventions in place which prevent the destruction of cultural heritage”.
Iran has said it will no longer abide by restrictions on its uranium enrichment.
Germany’s government has said it is moving some of its military personnel from Iraq to neighbouring countries over the security concerns.
Around 30 of the 120 German soldiers in the country, who mainly train Iraqi security forces, will be redeployed to Jordan and Kuwait.
Source : Sky News