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Mourners pack Tehran to pay homage to Soleimani

06 January, 2020

By SJA Jafri + Agencies

TEHRAN: Funeral processions to honour Qassem Soleimani, a top Iranian military commander who was assassinated last week in an air raid by the United States in Baghdad, are underway in Iran.

Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, was martyred along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF, or Hashd al-Shaabi), an Iran-backed umbrella organisation comprising several militias. Several other people were also killed in Friday’s attack.

The move by the US has drawn condemnation from leaders and officials who fear that tensions in the region could escalate drastically.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei warned that “a harsh retaliation is waiting”. On Saturday, US President Donald Trump threatened to hit 52 Iranian sites “very hard” if Iran attacked US citizens or assets.

Hundreds of thousands of people turned out in the capital to pay their final respects to Soleimani, as the multi-city ceremony for the slain commander continued in Iran.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei led prayers at the Tehran funeral, weeping at one point during the traditional Muslim prayers for the dead.

A sea of men, wearing all-black outfits, and women in black chadors, waited for the arrival of Soleimani’s remains, as loudspeakers blared mourning hymns throughout central Tehran.

A traffic jam formed in the intersections leading to the unfinished grand mosque, named after Khomeini, where the current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei led the prayers for Soleimani.

Soleimani’s remains will be brought to his hometown of Kerman Tuesday for final rites before his burial.

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