Mourners Killed In Stampede At Iran General’s Funeral

Iranian mourners gather around a vehicle carrying the coffin of slain top general Qasem Soleimani during the final stage of funeral processions, in his hometown Kerman on January 7, 2020.  AFP

 

A stampede broke out Tuesday at the funeral of a top Iranian general killed in a US drone strike, leaving more than 30 people dead as huge crowds of mourners packed his hometown.

The crush in the southeastern city of Kerman came as Iran prepared to bury Revolutionary Guards commander Qasem Soleimani, a hugely popular figure in the Islamic republic.

“Unfortunately because of overcrowding 32 of our citizens lost their lives in the procession… and 190 were injured,” the head of the country’s emergency services, Pirhossein Koolivand, told state television.

The injured were immediately transferred to hospital, he added.

AFP correspondents in Kerman said the streets were packed with mourners, while others took refuge on hillsides around the city.

Soleimani, the head of the Guards’ Quds Force foreign operations arm, was assassinated on Friday in a US strike near Baghdad international airport, an operation that shocked Iran.

“The enemy killed him unjustly,” the Revolutionary Guards’ top commander, Major General Hossein Salami said, adding the process of “expelling the United States from the region has begun”.

“Our will is firm. We also tell our enemies that we will take revenge, and that if they (strike again) we will set fire to what they love,” he told the sea of black-clad mourners.

“They themselves know well what places I am talking about.”

Schoolgirls joined chants of “Death to Trump” from the crowd, an AFP correspondent reported.

Tuesday’s funeral comes after days of processions through the southwestern city of Ahvaz and the shrine cities of Qom and Mashhad as well as the capital Tehran.

The assassination of Soleimani set off an escalating war of words between Iran and the United States.

In Tehran, President Hassan Rouhani on Monday warned Trump to “never threaten” Iran, after the US leader issued a US strike list of 52 targets in the Islamic republic.

On Tuesday, Iranian lawmakers voted to designate all US forces around the world “terrorists” over Soleimani’s killing.

Parliament also agreed to bolster the coffers of the Quds Force, which Soleimani led, by $244 million (200 million euros).

‘Boils the blood’ 

In Kerman, people converged from afar on Azadi Square where two flag-draped coffins were on display, with the second one reportedly containing the remains of Soleimani’s closest aide, Brigadier General Hossein Pourjafari.

“We’re here today to pay respects to the great commander of the holy defence,” said one of the mourners who came from the southern city of Shiraz to attend the funeral in Kerman.

“Haj Qasem was not only loved in Kerman, or Iran, but also the whole world,” Hemmat Dehghan told AFP.

“The security of the whole world, Muslims, Shiites, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and especially Iran, all owe it to him,” said the 56-year-old war veteran.

Another mourner said Soleimani’s assassination “boils the blood of the Iranian people”.

“He was seen as a great man who was ready to serve his people both then in the war and now. He must certainly be avenged,” said Sara Khaksar, an 18-year-old student.

Friday’s assassination of the 62-year-old Soleimani heightened international concern about a new war in the volatile Middle East.

Iraq’s parliament has demanded the government expel the 5,200 American troops stationed in the country in response to the drone attack which also killed top Iraqi military figure Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

Baghdad requested in a letter to the UN — seen by AFP — that the Security Council condemn the US strike so that “the law of the jungle” is not allowed to prevail.

The operation represented “a dangerous escalation that could lead to a devastating war in Iraq, the region and the world,” wrote Iraq’s UN ambassador Mohammed Hussein Bahr-Aluloom.

 Markets on edge 

On Sunday night, the US mistakenly notified the Iraq of an imminent troop pullout in a letter that sparked confusion in Washington.

“We respect your sovereign decision to order our departure,” said the letter, whose authenticity was confirmed to AFP by both Iraqi and US defence officials.

In the letter, US Brigadier General William Seely said the US-led coalition would “be repositioning forces”.

But Pentagon Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley said the letter was a mere “draft” that was sent by mistake.

Germany said Tuesday it was withdrawing some of its troops deployed as the anti-IS coalition in Iraq.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warned on Monday that Iran must avoid “further violence and provocations”.

The European Union, whose foreign ministers will hold emergency talks on the crisis Friday, said it was in both Iran and Iraq’s interests to “take the path of sobriety and not the path of escalation”.

Saudi Arabia — an oil-rich US ally seen as vulnerable to Iranian counter strikes — also appealed for calm after a “very dangerous” escalation.

World financial markets have been on edge over the crisis.

“The new year has started with a bang in so far as volatility is concerned,” said Fawad Razaqzada at Forex.com.

“This is mainly due to the escalation of tensions between the US and Iran after Trump ordered the assassination of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani.”

Soleimani is expected to be buried at the martyrs’ cemetery in Kerman between 2:00 and 4:00 pm (1030 and 1230 GMT).

AFP

Crimea Mourns Victims Of School Massacre

People attend a mourning ceremony in the Russian-annexed Crimea city of Kerch on October 19, 2018, after a student opened fire at a technical college. A teenage gunman shot dead 20 people and injured dozens before killing himself at a technical college where he was a student on October 17, 2018. It is the worst massacre of its kind in the country’s history. Andrey PETRENKO / AFP

 

Mourners wept at a ceremony in Crimea on Friday held for the 20 people killed in a school shooting dubbed the “Russian Columbine”, the worst massacre of its kind in the country’s history.

Two days before, 18-year-old Vladislav Roslyakov opened fire on his technical college in the city of Kerch before killing himself. More than 40 others were injured in the attack.

“We don’t want to talk, we want to weep. The history of Crimea will be divided in two — before and after October 17,” the leader of the Moscow-annexed peninsula Sergei Aksyonov told a crowd of hundreds at Kerch’s central square.

“We need to be strong, we need to be brave,” he said.

On the city’s Lenin Square, tables covered in red cloth had been set up opposite a statue of the Soviet leader, each one bearing a photograph of a victim.

Aksyonov placed a red rose in front of each coffin at the ceremony, which was set to continue in a procession to the city’s new cemetery.

Hundreds of students from the technical college where the attack took place were at the square, including an injured young woman in a wheelchair.

Security has been stepped up in the city of 150,000, which sits in the far east of Crimea and is where a recently-opened bridge links the Russian mainland to its newly annexed territory. All central roads have been closed.

Of those injured in the attack, a number remained in a “very serious condition”, Russian health minister Veronika Skvortsova said.

Many of those hospitalised were injured by an explosion that blasted metal ball bearings and other items into their bodies.

Six have been transferred to the Russian capital for further treatment, Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin said.

– Claim shooter was bullied –

On Thursday, a girl claiming to be Roslyakov’s ex-girlfriend told Russian media he had spoken of taking revenge for bullying.

“He would say that he lost trust in people when his classmates began humiliating him for not being like everyone else,” a 15-year-old named as Zlata told the Kremlin-funded RT television outlet.

“Vladislav was always telling me about his frequent fights with people around him,” she said, adding that he “didn’t want to live” because of it.

President Vladimir Putin meanwhile said the killing was the “result of globalisation” and the continuation of a trend that had begun in the US.

Several media outlets made a comparison with the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in the US, which left 13 people dead.

They described photographs circulating on the internet showing Roslyakov wearing a similar T-shirt to Eric Harris, one of the Columbine killers.

Investigators are working to establish the teenager’s exact motive and whether he was working alone.

According to the Russian Kommersant newspaper, the teenager “grew up in a rather poor family” with a disabled father. The paper said Roslyakov’s mother is a Jehovah’s Witness – a Christian organisation considered “extremist” and banned in Russia.

Russian television reported she works as an orderly at one of the hospitals that treated victims.

According to the RIA Novosti agency, security forces raided Roslyakov’s family home following the killings.

British Mourners Bid Toddler, Evans Farewell

A baneer for terminally-ill British toddler Alfie Evans, who died on April 28, hangs in the stands during the English Premier League football match between Everton and Southampton at Goodison Park in Liverpool, north west England on May 5, 2018.
Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Hundreds of people took to the streets of Liverpool on Monday to mourn 23-month-old, Alfie Evans, who died last month following a highly-charged battle between the hospital and his parents.

The well-wishers broke into applause as the funeral cortege passed Everton football club’s Goodison Park stadium, on its way to a private burial nearby.

Members of the public placed flowers on the hearses, which carried floral tributes reading “Warrior”, “Our Hero” and “Son”.

Evans died on April 28 after doctors at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital withdrew life support, following a long legal battle and a campaign by the parents that drew support from Pope Francis.

The parents had fought to take their son, who had a degenerative condition that caused irreversible brain damage, to a clinic in Rome but lost in court.

Evans was born on May 9, 2016, and was first taken to hospital in December of that year after suffering seizures.

His condition worsened and, a year later, in December 2017, the hospital recommended withdrawing life support.

The parents disagreed and the two sides went to court, sparking a battle that made international headlines.

The case was the latest in a series of high-profile clashes between parents of seriously ill children and the British authorities.

British law states that parents “cannot demand a particular treatment to be continued where the burdens of the treatment clearly outweigh the benefits for the child”.

AFP

Three killed, Dozens injured as mourners bid farewell to Pope Shenouda III

Three people were killed and dozens more injured Sunday when thousands of grieving Coptic Christians packed St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo to bid farewell to Pope Shenouda III.

The Deputy Health Minister Hisham Sheeha, said overcrowding in the building resulted in a stampede, killing three mourners and injuring 52 others, most of which suffered from low blood pressure and insufficient oxygen.

Shenouda died Saturday at age 88 after a long illness, setting in motion the process to elect a new patriarch for the Middle East’s largest Christian community.

Tens of thousands of mourners converged on the cathedral in a line that stretched for nearly a mile (1.6km), as military vehicles lined the road outside.

Shenouda’s body, dressed in formal robes with a golden crown on his head, was placed upright on the tall ornate papal throne where it will remain sitting in state until the funeral Tuesday.

Based on wishes stated in his will, Shenouda will be buried at St. Bishoy monastery of Wadi Natrun in the Nile Delta, where he spent time in exile after a dispute with the late president Anwar Sadat.