Dozens of people died in a stampede that erupted when hundreds of thousands of mourners thronged the Iranian city of Kerman at a funeral procession in honour of Qassem Soleimani, a top Iranian general who was killed in an air strike in Baghdad by the United States.
Over 200 others have been reportedly injured, Al Jazeera reported, quoting the semi-official Fars news agency reported on Tuesday.
“So far, 40 people were killed and 213 others were wounded in the incident,” officials said, due to “overcrowding.”
Officials said the funeral rites have been postponed without stating a new date in view.
The postponed burial comes after the streets of Ahvaz in southwestern Iran, Mashhad in the northwest, Tehran and the holy city of Qom were besieged by mourners for days.
The death of the general has stoked fears of a new war between the U.S. and Iran, with both parties trading tackles of a potential retaliation.
While Tehran is considering 13 scenarios to avenge the killing of its military commander, Washington has threatened to hit 52 Iranian cultural sites “very hard” if Iran does not back down on its threat.
Iran’s Defence Minister, Amir Hatami, who was quoted by the state news agency IRNA said Iran will take crushing revenge for the killing which Iran described as an assassination.
“A crushing revenge will be taken for Soleimani’s unjust assassination … We will take revenge from all those involved and responsible for his assassination,” Mr Hatami said.
The U.S. accused the general of masterminding the killing of many of its citizens.
“He was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and wounding of thousands more,” the Pentagon said in a statement, noting further that the operation was aimed at serving as a deterrence to further attacks on American interests.
The slain Mr Soleimani was the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force. He was killed along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, an Iran-backed body comprising several militias.