Soleimani: Iranians flock to hometown for commander's burial

Huge numbers of black-clad mourners have turned out to pay their final respects to Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani ahead of his burial.

Iranians estimated in their millions have already turned out in recent days for his funeral procession. His body has now arrived in his hometown of Kerman, where he is being buried on Tuesday morning. Soleimani was assassinated in a US drone strike in Iraq on Friday, on the orders of President Donald Trump. The killing brought fears that long-standing tensions between the US and Iran could spiral into conflict. Soleimani was widely considered the second most powerful man in the Iran behind Supreme Leader Khamenei. The US saw him as a terrorist. In other developments:
  • The US has reportedly denied a visa for Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to visit the UN in New York later this week. Such a move would apparently breach an agreement guaranteeing foreign officials access to the UN headquarters
  • Germany is withdrawing a small number of soldiers stationed in Iraq as part of the coalition fighting Islamic State
  • The US denied it was pulling out of Iraq, after a letter from a US general suggested there would be a withdrawal
  • Iranian parliamentarians have approved a motion designating the US Army and the Pentagon as terrorist organisations, Iran’s Tasnim news agency reports
In Kerman, south-eastern Iran, vast numbers of people were again seen in the streets with Soleimani’s body due to be buried shortly. “He was seen as a great man who was ready to serve his people… He must certainly be avenged,” an 18-year-old student who was there told the AFP news agency. On Monday, Ayatollah Khamenei led prayers at Soleimani’s funeral in Tehran, at one point weeping over his coffin. Unconfirmed estimates from Iranian state television put the number who took to the streets of Iran’s capital alone as “millions”. The crowds were large enough they could be seen in satellite images.
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Who was Qasem Soleimani? Soleimani was head of the Quds force, tasked with advancing Iran’s Islamic revolution abroad. He was killed leaving Baghdad airport on Friday. In his homeland, Soleimani was hailed as a national hero. But he was also hardliner and a dominant force in a state that shot dead scores of protesters at the end of 2019. Soleimani supported Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s civil conflict, aided the Shia militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon, and guided Iraqi militia groups against the Islamic State group. Justifying the strike President Trump said Soleimani was plotting “imminent” attacks on US diplomats and military personnel. What has happened since his death? Immediately after his death Iran threatened retaliation and officials have kept up the rhetoric. The leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard on Tuesday threatened to “set ablaze” places supported by the US. On Sunday, Iran declared it would no longer abide by any of the restrictions imposed by the 2015 nuclear deal. The deal limited Iranian nuclear capacities in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Following warnings from Iran, Mr Trump said that the US would respond in the event of retaliation for Soleimani’s death, “perhaps in a disproportionate manner”. Trump administration officials though have contradicted the US president on his controversial threat to target Iranian cultural sites. Such acts could be considered war crimes and Secretary of Defence Mark Esper said “we will follow the laws of armed conflict”. BBC]]>