January 7, 2020 / 4:37 AM / 13 days ago

Body of Iranian commander killed in U.S. strike arrives for burial in southeast Iran - agency

Iranian people carry a coffin of Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force, who was killed in an air strike at Baghdad airport, during a funeral procession in Tehran, Iran January 6, 2020. Official Khamenei website/Handout via REUTERS

DUBAI (Reuters) - The body of the senior Iranian military commander killed in a U.S. drone strike in Iraq last week has arrived in his home town of Kerman in southeast Iran for burial, the official IRNA news agency said on Tuesday.

State TV broadcast live images of thousands of people in the streets of the town, many of them dressed in black, to mourn Qassem Soleimani.

Soleimani was widely seen as Iran’s second most powerful figure behind Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 80, who wept in grief along with hundreds of thousands of mourners who thronged the streets of Tehran for Soleimani’s funeral on Monday.

Khamenei led prayers at the funeral in the Iranian capital, pausing as his voice cracked with emotion. Soleimani, 62, was a national hero even to many who do not consider themselves supporters of Iran’s clerical rulers.

He was killed leaving Baghdad airport last Friday.

Mourners packed the streets, chanting: “Death to America!” - a show of national unity after anti-government protests in November in which many demonstrators were killed.

The crowd, which state media said numbered in the millions, recalled the masses gathered in 1989 for the funeral of the Islamic Republic’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

The killing of Soleimani has prompted fears around the world of a broader regional conflict, as well as calls in the U.S. Congress for legislation to keep President Donald Trump from going to war against Iran.

Reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Robert Birsel

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