NEWS
05/01/2020 17:39 GMT | Updated 06/01/2020 10:22 GMT

Qassem Soleimani Funeral: Huge Crowds Mourn Commander Killed In US Air Strike

Tens-of-thousands of people filled the streets for the grand funeral procession.

Huge crowds of mourners have lined the streets of two major Iranian cities for the the funeral of top military general Qassem Soleimani

The crowds formed as part of a grand funeral procession for the commander killed by an American drone strike amid soaring tensions between Iran and the US.

Donald Trump has threatened to bomb 52 sites in Iran if it retaliates by attacking Americans.

Abdullah Dhiaa Al-deen / Reuters
Mourners attend the funeral procession of Qassem Soleimani.

 

The US Embassy in Saudi Arabia separately warned Americans “of the heightened risk of missile and drone attacks”, and British nationals have been advised against travelling to Iraq entirely, and told to only visit Iran if necessary.

Meanwhile, Iran vowed to take an even-greater step away from its unravelling nuclear deal with world powers as a response to Soleimani’s death.

Iraqi MPs on Sunday asked the government to expel all foreign troops from the country, banning them from land, sea, and airspace. 

 

Wana News Agency / Reuters
Iran has vowed to act following the general's death.

 

The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group said on Sunday that America’s military in the Middle East region – including US bases, warships and soldiers – are fair targets following the killing of Iran’s top general.

Hassan Nasrallah said evicting US military forces from the region is now a priority.

“The suicide attackers who forced the Americans to leave from our region in the past are still here and their numbers have increased,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech.

 

Abdullah Dhiaa Al-deen / Reuters
Iraqi MPs have called on the government to force foreign troops from the country.

 

The US drone strike killing Soleimani in Iraq Friday escalated the crisis between Tehran and Washington after months of trading attacks and threats that put the wider Middle East on edge.

The conflict is rooted in Trump pulling out of Iran’s nuclear accord.

Iraq’s parliament voted on Sunday to expel the US military from the country.

The resolution specifically called for an end to an agreement in which Washington sent troops to Iraq more than four years ago to help in the fight against the Islamic State group.

The US has some 5,000 troops deployed in different parts of Iraq.

 

Wana News Agency / Reuters
Tens-of-thousands of people have joined the procession in mourning.

 

After thousands in Baghdad on Saturday mourned Soleimani and others killed in the strike, authorities flew the general’s body to the south-western Iranian city of Ahvaz.

An honour guard stood by early on Sunday as mourners carried the flag-draped coffins of Soleimani and other guard members off the tarmac.

The caskets then moved slowly through streets choked with mourners wearing black, beating their chests and carrying posters with Soleimani’s portrait.

Demonstrators also carried red Shi’ite flags, which traditionally both symbolise the spilled blood of someone unjustly killed and call for their deaths to be avenged.

 

Wana News Agency / Reuters
Trump has since threatened to hit 52 culturally and historically significant sites in the case of Iranian retaliation. 

 

Officials brought Soleimani’s body to Ahvaz, a city that was a focus of fighting during the bloody 1980-88 war between Iraq and Iran, in which he slowly grew to prominence.

After that war, Soleimani joined the Guard’s newly formed Quds, or Jersualem, Force, an expeditionary force that works with Iranian proxy forces in countries like Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.

Authorities then took Soleimani’s body to Mashhad.

His remains will go to Tehran and Qom on Monday for public mourning processions, followed by his hometown of Kerman for burial on Tuesday.

This marks the first time Iran honoured a single man with a multi-city ceremony.

Soleimani will lie in state at Tehran’s Musalla mosque on Monday.

It is unclear how or when Iran may respond but any retaliation is likely to come after three days of mourning declared in both Iran and Iraq.

Iranian officials planned to meet on Sunday night to discuss taking a fifth step away from its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, one that could be even greater than planned, foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told journalists.