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Mourners gather in 'million strong' crowd for funeral of Iranian general killed by US

Qassem Soleimani’s daughter has spoken of an attack on the US military in retaliation.

Image: DPA/PA Images

Updated Jan 6th 2020, 2:55 PM

IRAN’S SUPREME LEADER has prayed over the remains of a top general killed in a US airstrike in Baghdad, an attack that has drastically raised tensions between Tehran and Washington.

The targeted killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guard General Qassem Soleimani already has seen his replacement vow to take revenge.

Additionally, Tehran has abandoned the remaining limits of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in response to the slaying while in Iraq the parliament has called for the expulsion of all American troops from Iraqi soil.

The developments could bring Iran closer to building an atomic bomb, set off a proxy or military attack launched by Tehran against the US and enable the Islamic State group to stage a comeback in Iraq, making the Middle East a far more dangerous and unstable place.

Adding to the tensions, President Donald Trump threatened to demand billions of dollars in compensation from Iraq or impose “sanctions like they’ve never seen before” if it goes through with expelling US troops.

On Twitter this afternoon, Trump also seemed to double down on his government’s attitude to Iran. 

“IRAN WILL NEVER HAVE A NUCLEAR WEAPON,” he tweeted. 

iran-soleimani Coffins of Soleimani and others who were killed in Iraq by a U.S. drone strike, are carried on a truck surrounded by mourners during a funeral procession at the Enqelab-e-Eslami Source: AP/PA Images

State television said it was a “several million-strong” turnout.

The streets of Tehran were so full of people who many were unable to emerge from underground metro stations, semi-official news agency ISNA reported.

“There are large crowds at metro stations but as there is also a huge crowd at the street level, it isn’t possible to evacuate passengers,” metro chief Farnoush Nobakht was quoted as saying.

The sheer number of mourners left many people stuck in sidestreets around Enghelab (Revolution) Street, the main route of a procession to a ceremony at Tehran University.

funeral-of-qasem-soleimani-tehran Zeinab Soleimani, daughter of slain Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani Source: Parspix/ABACA

Soleimani’s daughter Zeinab directly threatened an attack on the US military in the Mid East while speaking to mourners. 

“The families of the American soldiers in western Asia … will spend their days waiting for the death of their children,” she said to cheers.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei himself prayed over the caskets of Soleimani and others slain in the attack.

Khamenei, who had a close relationship with Soleimani, wept at one point during the traditional Muslim prayers for the dead. The crowd wailed.

“Oh Allah, they are in need of your mercy, and you are exalted above punishing your servants,” Ayatollah Khamenei said during a mass prayer as he stood over the coffin of Soleimani. 

Soleimani’s successor Esmail Ghaani stood near Khamenei’s side, as did Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and other top leaders in the Islamic Republic.

Ghaani made his own threat in an interview with Iranian state television aired on Monday. “God the Almighty has promised to get his revenge, and God is the main avenger. Certainly, actions will be taken,” he said.

Ghaani, a longtime Soleimani deputy, has now taken over as the head of the Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force, an expeditionary arm of the paramilitary organization answerable only to Khamenei.

iran-soleimani In this image taken from video, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, left, openly weeps as he leads prayers. Source: AP/PA Images

funeral-of-qasem-soleimani-tehran Source: Parspix/ABACA

While Iran recently faced nationwide protests over government-set petrol prices that reportedly killed over 300 people, Soleimani’s mass processionals has seen politicians and leaders across the Islamic Republic’s political spectrum take part, temporarily silencing that anger.

 ’Crushing response’

The  emotions sparked by the US killing of Soleimani were on full display in Tehran, where mourners formed a sea of black, dotted with red Shiite flags and white signs, in what state television said was a “several million-strong” turnout.

“The last time I remember such a crowd was at Ayatollah Khomeini’s funeral 30 years ago,” said Maziar Khosravi, former head of the political department of the reformist daily Shargh.

As they marched down a main artery of the Iranian capital, the mourners chanted “Death to America” and “Death to Israel”.

Chants of “Death to infidels,” “Death to seditionists” and “Death to al-Saud” – a reference to the Saudi ruling family – were also heard.

But most of the anger was directed at Tehran’s arch-enemy Washington and US President Donald Trump.

One man said he had come to the capital with his wife and child before dawn from Karaj, a city about 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of the Iranian capital.

“Our message to America is we will hit you. We’ll make you pay for the blood you spilled,” said Mehdi Ghorbani.

“America should know they started this, but we will end it,” he told AFP.

A group of teenagers stood in a circle holding banners, one reading: “Haj Qasem’s shoe is worth more than Trump’s head”.

Other mourners called for US forces to be driven out of the region.

“We must give a crushing response,” one of the mourners told AFP.

“We must target whatever military base they have in the region. We must attack all that are in the range of our missiles,” said the 61-year-old businessman who gave his name as Afkhami.

“Americans being thrown out (of Iraq) is not enough.”

The procession later made its way to Tehran’s vast Azadi Square, before Soleimani’s remains were flown to the holy city of Qom for a ceremony.

He will be laid to rest in his hometown Kerman on Tuesday, in a martyrs’ cemetery next to a war veteran he used to fight alongside with.

- With reporting from AFP 

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