Tens of thousands of mourners clad in black have filled the streets of Mashhad and Ahvaz to pay their respects to Qassem Soleimani, the country’s most powerful and revered military commander who was assassinated by a US air strike in Iraq.
Soleimani’s remains were flown to the southwestern city of Ahvaz on Sunday, two days after his killing triggered a dramatic escalation of tensions in the Middle East.
Several others were also killed in Friday’s strike on a convoy at Baghdad airport, including the Iranian-backed Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
In live footage aired on Sunday on Iranian state television, tens of thousands of mourners marched through Ahvaz holding up portraits of Soleimani, seen as a hero for his role in the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s and for spearheading Iran’s Middle East operations as chief of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’s (IRGC) overseas forces.
The footage showed crowds thronging Mollavi Square with flags in green, white and red – depicting the blood of “martyrs” – men and women weeping as they beat their chests to the sound of chants.
World's Biggest Funeral? Thousands flood streets as Qassem Soleimani funeral gets underway pic.twitter.com/p5gp8adsIN
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Authorities plan to take Soleimani’s remains 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.
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