50 mourners dead after stampede at Qasem Soleimani burial in Iran

People mourn fallen leader Qasem Soleimani

At least 50 people have been killed and more than 200 injured in a stampede in the southeastern Iranian city of Kerman, at the funeral procession of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani, who was assassinated in a drone strike by the United States.

The deaths in Soleimani's hometown of Kerman led to the ceremony being delayed.

The burial is the last in a series of funeral events that have brought millions on to the streets in Iran.This was the first time Iran honoured a single man with a multi-city ceremony since the 1989 funeral for the Islamic Republic founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Soleimani's remains and those of the other victims killed in last week's US airstrike were brought to a central square in Kerman, a desert city surrounded by mountains.His assassination has raised fears of a conflict between the US and Iran.

The head of the Quds force was tasked with defending and projecting Iranian interests abroad, and was hailed as a hero by many in his home country. Immediately after his death, Iran threatened retaliation.

The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo defended the killing of Soleimani but provided no new evidence to support the US claim that the general posed a direct threat to US lives.

At a press conference, Pompeo accused Iran of propaganda by claiming that the fallen leader was in Baghdad on a diplomatic mission. He also said he was “confident” that lawyers were consulted before Donald Trump ordered the strike.

Top general, Maj Gen Hossein Salami said: "The martyr Qasem Soleimani is more powerful, now that he is dead”, as Iranian officials renewed their threats of revenge.

Soleimani's daughter Zeinab also threatened an attack on the U.S. military in the Middle East, while speaking to a crowd of hundreds of thousands in Tehran.

“The families of US soldiers in the Middle East will spend their days waiting for the death of their children," she said.

The day before, mourners, spreading across several miles, chanted anti-American and anti-Israeli slogans against a background of funeral songs broadcast over loudspeakers.

What does the attack mean for the US and Iran?

Soleimani's killing was a major escalation between the two nations, and Iran vowed to take "severe revenge".

Iran’s attacks on US bases in Iraq were described as the end — or the beginning of something far worse, with the decision lying solely with Mr Trump.

The Iranians sent clear signals, both through the missile strikes and through semi-official and official channels, that this is their big response. It is said that if Trump chooses a nonmilitary response like a tweet, declaring victory, it’s possible that Iran won’t escalate things any further.This crisis set off by Soleimani’s killing would then turn out to be a short-lived military skirmish rather than a full-scale war.

It’s possible this isn’t the end of the Iranian military response. However, strong signals from Tehran sent out Tuesday night through various channels are all framed as contingent on another American response - "If you attack us again, we’ll hit you again."

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