Funeral processions to honour Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran’s elite Quds Force who was killed in a US air strike in Baghdad, have begun in the Iranian city of Ahvaz early on Sunday, hours after his remains arrived from Iraq.
Soleimani was killed along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, 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 worldwide condemnation from leaders and officials who fear that tensions in the region could escalate drastically. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali 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.
Sunday, January 5:
Iran’s Minister Jahromi says Trump ‘a terrorist in a suit’
US President Trump is “a terrorist in a suit”, Iranian Information and Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi, said in a Twitter post.
“Like ISIS, Like Hitler, Like Genghis! They all hate cultures. Trump is a terrorist in a suit. He will learn history very soon that NOBODY can defeat ‘the Great Iranian Nation & Culture’,” Jahromi said.
British FM speaks to Iraqi leaders, urges de-escalation
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said he had spoken to Iraq’s prime minister and president to urge a deescalation of tensions in the region.
Raab, who described Soleimani as a “regional menace”, and said he was sympathetic to the situation the US found itself in, said he also planned to speak to Iran’s foreign minister.
“There is a route through, which allows Iran to come in from out of the international cold,” he told Sky News.
“We need to contain the nefarious actions of Iran but we also need to de-escalate and stabilise the situation.”
Tens of thousands mourn as Soleimani’s funeral commences
Tens of thousands of black-clad mourners have filled the streets of the Iranian city of Ahvaz to pay their respects to Soleimani.
Authorities plan to take Soleimani’s body to the holy city of Mashhad later on Sunday, as well as Tehran and the holy city of Qom on Monday for public mourning processions, then to his hometown of Kerman for burial on Tuesday.