Crowds of mourners gathered in Kerman, the hometown of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, for his burial. A stampede reportedly led to at least 50 deaths and hundreds injured. His burial was subsequently postponed.
Iranian state TV reported that a stampede killed at least 56 people and injured over 200 as large crowds turned out in the hometown of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani for his burial on Tuesday, a day after an enormous funeral procession in the capital, Tehran.
The burial was subsequently postponed, with Iranian media citing the "enormous crowd."
Eyewitnesses described scenes of "mass panic" as thousands of people converged on the city of Kerman. The general's flag-draped coffin was making its way slowly along the streets of the city when the deadly stampede broke out.
"My contacts in Kerman have confirmed that dozens of people have been killed and wounded in the stampede," freelance journalist Reza Khaasteh told DW. He put the number of people in Kerman in the "millions."
"People are very shocked and hearts are broken," he added.
"Unfortunately, as a result of the stampede, some of our compatriots have been injured and some have been killed during the funeral processions," said Pirhossein Koulivand, the head of Iran's emergency medical services.
General Soleimani was killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad on Friday. In response, Iran pledged "severe revenge" on the US.
Salami: We will 'set ablaze' US sites
Speaking to crowds in Kerman, Hossein Salami, the leader of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, threatened to "set ablaze the places that they [US] like and are passionate about."
"The martyr Qassem Soleimani is more powerful now that he is dead," he added while addressing crowds. "The enemy killed him unjustly."
Read more: What is Iran's Revolutionary Guard?
"Our will is firm," he proclaimed. "We also tell our enemies that we will take revenge, and that if they [attack us] we will set fire to what they love," he told the sea of black-clad mourners. "Expelling the United States from the region has already begun."
The gathered crowds responded with shouts of "Death to Israel!" His words mirrored those of other top Iranian officials, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Some also chanted "Death to America!" and "Death to Trump!"
'Soleimani was loved in Kerman'
Mourners lined the streets, many wearing black, holding pictures of the slain general. Soleimani has been viewed as a "national hero" by many Iranians. People traveled from many parts of Iran to the general's hometown to pay their respects.
Soleimani's remains, along with those of the others killed in the US airstrike, were initially brought to the central square of Kerman.
"Soleimani was very popular in his home province," Khaasteh told DW.
"The security of the whole world, Muslims, Shiites, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and especially Iran, all owe it to him," mourner Hemmat Dehghan told AFP news agency.
"Qassem was not only loved in Kerman, or Iran, but also the whole world," he added. Trump and other US allies maintain that Soleimani caused a great deal of death and suffering throughout the Middle East.
His killing has prompted a crisis in the Middle East. On Sunday, Iran officially announced another step to reduce commitments to the 2015 international nuclear deal. Separately, the Iraqi parliament voted to remove all US troops from Iraq.
European countries have urged de-escalation in the region.
cw,ed/rt (AFP, Reuters, AP)