At least 30 people have been killed in a stampede at the burial procession for Qassem Soleimani, the top Iranian general killed by a US airstrike in Baghdad last week, Iranian authorities said.

The number of victims was likely to increase, the authorities said on state television on Tuesday.

The panic broke out at the burial in Soleimani’s home town of Kerman in south-east Iran, where Tuesday was declared a public holiday in a move aimed at encouraging as many people as possible to pay their respects to the general.

Earlier media reports said hundreds of thousands of people were attending the burial procession with nearly all television stations in the country showing masses of people moving from the city centre to the martyrs’ graveyard where Soleimani is to be buried later.

“We will get revenge and it will be forceful and hard so that the Americans bitterly regret the act,” said Revolutionary Guard Corps (IGRC) chief Hussein Salami, who took part in the funeral procession.

The masses at the event followed Salami’s words with chants of “revenge, revenge” and “Allahu akbar” – meaning “God is greatest.”

Soleimani was commander of the Quds Force, an elite unit in the IGRC.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday ordered the IRGC budget to be increased by the equivalent of 225 million dollars until March 20, said Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani, according to the state-run news agency IRNA.

The increase is related to the implementation of the “hard revenge” plan against the United States for the killing of Soleimani, he said.

In addition, the Iranian parliament has designated all Pentagon commanders who were responsible for Soleimani’s death as “terrorists,” IRNA reported.

The law was passed unanimously with calls of “death to the United States” from lawmakers.

The Pentagon a day earlier had tried to calm fears that the US could potentially retaliate to any Iranian revenge by destroying cultural sites in the country.

“We will follow the laws of armed conflict,” said US General Mark Milley during a press conference Monday.

US President Donald Trump had previously threatened to retaliate to Iranian aggression by attacking Iranian cultural sites.

Large funeral processions were held in several other Iranian cities on Monday, with media reporting that millions gathered in Tehran to mourn Soleimani. The ceremony in the capital was led by Khamenei, who appeared emotional as he prayed over the general’s coffin.

Soleimani was considered one of Iran’s most influential military leaders, wielding influence in Iraq, Syria and other parts of the Middle East.

“With the killing of a high-ranking Iranian officer, the US have taken a dangerous path, which could endanger the entire region very soon,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said, according to the state-run news agency IRNA.

Source: dpa