Tehran, Iran (CNB News) – Huge numbers of black-clad mourners have turned out to pay their final respects to Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani ahead of his burial.
Soleimani was assassinated in a US drone strike in Iraq on Friday, on the orders of President Donald Trump. His body has now arrived in his hometown of Kerman in south-eastern Iran, where he is being buried on Tuesday morning.
Large crowds already turned out for a funeral procession in Tehran. Iran has vowed “severe revenge” for the death of Soleimani and on Sunday pulled back from the 2015 nuclear accord.
Soleimani, 62, headed Iran’s elite Quds Force, and was tasked with protecting and boosting Iran’s influence in the Middle East. In his homeland, Soleimani was hailed as a national hero and widely considered the second most powerful man in the country behind Supreme Leader Khamenei.
He was a hardliner and a dominant force in a regime that shot dead scores of protesters at the end of 2019. He also spent vast sums building up alliances and militias in Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq and Syria at a time when US sanctions are impoverishing many Iranians, BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen says.
Soleimani supported Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s civil conflict, aided the Shia militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon, and guided Iraqi militia groups against the Islamic State group.
The US saw him as a terrorist, and President Trump said Soleimani was plotting “imminent” attacks on US diplomats and military personnel.