Dozens of people were killed in a stampede as crowds of mourners packed streets for the funeral of a slain military Iranian commander in his hometown of Kerman on Tuesday, forcing his burial to be postponed, state-affiliated media reported.
Tens of thousands of people had gathered in Kerman to pay tribute to General Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Iraq on Friday.
A stampede broke out amid the crush, killing 32 people and injuring about 190, the semi-official Fars news agency reported, citing an emergency services official. One state media agency reported 35 dead, while others reported fatalities without giving figures.
Iran’s ISNA news agency said the burial of Soleimani had been postponed, but did not say how long any delay would last.
“Today because of the heavy congestion of the crowd unfortunately a number of our fellow citizens who were mourning were injured and a number were killed,” emergency medical services chief Pirhossein Kolivand told state television.
The body of Soleimani, a national hero whose death has united many Iranians, had been taken to Iraqi and Iranian cities before arriving in Kerman for burial.
In each place, huge numbers of people filled thoroughfares, chanting “Death to America” and weeping with emotion. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei shed tears as led prayers in Tehran on Monday.
In other developments on Tuesday, a senior Iranian official said Tehran was considering 13 scenarios to avenge his killing.
In Washington, the U.S. defence secretary denied reports the U.S. military was preparing to withdraw from Iraq, where Tehran has vied with Washington for influence over nearly two decades of war and unrest.
Soleimani was responsible for building up Tehran’s network of proxy armies across the Middle East and he was a key figure in orchestrating Iran’s long-standing campaign to drive U.S. forces out of its neighbour Iraq.
U.S. and Iranian warnings of new strikes and retaliation have also stoked concerns about a broader Middle East conflict and led to calls in the U.S. Congress for legislation to stop U.S. President Donald Trump going to war with Iran.