Dozens of people were killed and hundreds more injured in a stampede that occurred during a funeral procession for Qassem Soleimani, the top Iranian general who was killed last week in a drone strike, NBC News reported, citing Iranian state TV reports.
An Iranian emergency services official told the semi-official state TV Fars news agency that at least 56 people had been killed in the stampede and another 213 injured. The funeral procession was underway in in Soleimani's hometown of Kerman, Iran, when the stampede occurred.
Authorities later delayed Soleimani's burial because of concerns about the enormous crowd that had gathered in Kerman to mourn. They did not indicate when the burial would take place.
A separate procession in Tehran on Monday drew hundreds of thousands of mourners to Iran's capital.
Soleimani was killed near the Baghdad airport in Iraq last week after President Donald Trump authorized a drone strike following weeks of escalation that ended with protesters storming the U.S. Embassy compound in Iraq. As the leader for Iran's elite military unit, the Quds, Soleimani was in charge of a large scope of Iran's clandestine and military operations, and was largely considered the most powerful intelligence operative in the Middle East.
Iranian officials have vowed to avenge their general's death. They also stated the Iran would no longer be bound by the limitations on its nuclear program and enriching uranium that were negotiated under a multi-nation deal in 2015.
On Sunday, Trump threatened to attack 52 Iranian cultural sites if the country carried out any kind of retaliation for Soleimani's death.
"They’re allowed to kill our people. They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural sites," Trump told reporters while aboard Air Force One. "It doesn’t work that way."
Trump has stated the drone strike that killed Soleimani was in response to an "imminent attack" that would have cost American lives. The administration has not said what those attacks might have looked like.
The Iranian general's killing has sparked fears that a war could break out between the U.S. and Iran, even as both sides say they want to avoid a major military confrontation. Iran has said they are planning to avenge the killing of one of their most revered commanders.
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