Stampede at funeral procession for Iranian general Qassem Soleimani leaves 56 dead and over 200 injured

Ross McGuinness

A stampede has erupted at the funeral procession of an Iranian general killed in a US air strike, killing 56 mourners, according to Iran state TV.

The burial of General Qassem Soleimani was postponed after 56 people were killed and 213 injured in the incident on Tuesday.

Hundreds of thousands of people have poured on to the streets of Iran to mourn the general after he was killed in a US drone strike in the Iraqi capital Baghdad last week.

The stampede happened during his funeral in his home town of Kerman, in south-eastern Iran. His burial has been postponed as a result of the deaths and will be held later.

The head of Iran's emergency medical services, Pirhossein Koulivand, said there had been people injured and killed.

He said: “Unfortunately, as a result of the stampede, some of our compatriots have been injured and some have been killed during the funeral processions.”

Iranian mourners gather around a vehicle carrying the coffin of slain top general Qasem Soleimani during the final stage of funeral processions, in his hometown Kerman on January 7, 2020. - Soleimani was killed outside Baghdad airport Friday in a drone strike ordered by US President Donald Trump, ratcheting up tensions with arch-enemy Iran which has vowed "severe revenge". The assassination of the 62-year-old heightened international concern about a new war in the volatile, oil-rich Middle East and rattled financial markets. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP) (Photo by ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images)
Iranian mourners gather around a vehicle carrying Qassem Soleimani's coffin in Kerman (AFP/Getty)
Iranian general Qassem Soleimani was killed in a US drone strike last Friday (Picture: Getty)
Iranian general Qassem Soleimani was killed in a US drone strike last Friday (Getty)

A procession in Tehran on Monday drew more than a million people in the Iranian capital, crowding both main thoroughfares and side streets.

Prime minister Boris Johnson warned US president Donald Trump on Monday against “disproportionate” attacks on Iranian cultural sites.

Iran’s UN ambassador accused Mr Trump of “starting a war” through the killing of the general.

Mr Johnson is to chair a meeting of the National Security Council on Tuesday as Britain continues to urge all sides in the Gulf crisis to draw back from all-out conflict.

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Foreign secretary Dominic Raab spoke on Monday to his Iranian counterpart, Mohammed Javad Zarif, to stress the need for a diplomatic resolution to avoid a renewed conflict in the region.

Addressing MPs in the Commons on Tuesday, defence secretary Ben Wallace echoed the plea and urged Tehran not to retaliate for the strike on Gen Qassem Soleimani.

He repeated earlier calls for calm, adding: “None of us wants conflict, none of us wants our citizens, our friends and our allies to be put at risk.”

Mr Raab was travelling to Brussels on Tuesday for talks with his European counterparts on the situation in the Middle East, the Foreign Office confirmed.

TOPSHOT - Iranian mourners gather around a vehicle carrying the coffin of slain top general Qasem Soleimani during the final stage of funeral processions, in his hometown Kerman on January 7, 2020. - Soleimani was killed outside Baghdad airport Friday in a drone strike ordered by US President Donald Trump, ratcheting up tensions with arch-enemy Iran which has vowed "severe revenge". The assassination of the 62-year-old heightened international concern about a new war in the volatile, oil-rich Middle East and rattled financial markets. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP) (Photo by ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images)
Iranian mourners gather around a vehicle carrying the general's coffin (AFP/Getty)

The so-called "E3" - Britain, Germany and France - have jointly called for "de-escalation" of the tensions between the US and Iran.

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson spoke to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan about the need to ease tensions in the Middle East, Downing Street confirmed.

Following their phone conversation, Number 10 said: “They agreed on the importance of reducing tensions and finding a diplomatic way through the current crisis, and of continuing to work together in the fight against terror.

“They agreed that Iran cannot be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon and must comply with the terms of the nuclear deal.”

Tehran has vowed "severe revenge" for the killing of its top military commander in a US drone strike last week.

Mr Trump in turn warned that the US was ready to strike back in a "disproportionate" manner if the Iranians hit US targets.

Iranian mourners gather around a vehicle carrying the coffin of slain top general Qasem Soleimani during the final stage of funeral processions, in his hometown Kerman on January 7, 2020. - Soleimani was killed outside Baghdad airport on January 3 in a drone strike ordered by US President Donald Trump, ratcheting up tensions with arch-enemy Iran which has vowed "severe revenge". The assassination of the 62-year-old heightened international concern about a new war in the volatile, oil-rich Middle East and rattled financial markets. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP) (Photo by ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images)
Huge crowds gathered in Qassem Soleimani's home town for his funeral (AFP/Getty)
Iranian people attend a funeral procession and burial for Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force, who was killed in an air strike at Baghdad airport, at his hometown in Kerman, Iran January 7, 2020. Mehdi Bolourian/Fars News Agency/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY
Qassem Soleimani was the head of the elite Quds Force (Reuters)

Meanwhile, the UK’s Ministry of Defence refused to comment on reports that it is stepping up contingency plans to evacuate military and civilian personnel from neighbouring Iraq amid fears they could be targets for Iranian reprisals.

The prime minister has faced criticism that he was slow to respond to the crisis – only returning to the UK at the weekend following his new year break on the private Caribbean island of Mustique.

Mr Raab is due to fly to Washington later this week to meet secretary of state Mike Pompeo after he criticised the lack of support by the Europeans – including the UK – for the US action.

The foreign secretary echoed Mr Johnson in saying the UK would not "lament" the passing of Soleimani, whom he described as a "regional threat".

However he also warned that a threat by Mr Trump to target Iranian cultural sites would be a breach of international law.

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