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Iran Supreme Leader weeps as he leads prayers at Soleimani funeral procession

The Islamic Republic's highest-ranking officials were all in attendance for the funeral [Getty]

Date of publication: 6 January, 2020

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Iran's Supreme Leader led prayers over the remains of General Soleimani, killed in a US drone strike last week as millions gathered for the largest funeral procession.
Millions of mourners poured out into the streets of Tehran on Monday to join Iran's supreme eader, who lead prayers over the remains of slain general Qasem Soleimani in Tehran University.

Overcome with grief, Ayatollah Khamenei, who had a close relationship with Soleimani, paused recitation of the Quran at one moment during the service and wept.

Behind him, the crowds wailed. The gathering was one largest in Iran's modern history, according to state media, which reported a "several million-strong" turnout. 

Calls for vengance

Young and old were packed shoulder-to shoulder in the streets, including women dressed in black-clad chadours and others wearing loose-fitting hijabs.

Iranians held flags and images of Qasem Soleiman, the slain general of Iran's Quds Force, and chanted various slogans, demanding to avenge his killing.

"No to peace, no to surrender, we want war with America".

Fighters from the Iran-backed Afghan Shia militia also joined the funeral procession, as their vehicles were on display among the crowds.

One man said he had come to the capital with his wife and child before dawn from Karaj, a city about 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of the Iranian capital.

"Our message to America is we will hit you. We'll make you pay for the blood you spilled," said Mehdi Ghorbani.

"America should know they started this, but we will end it," he told the Associated French Press.

In the steps of the martyr

Zeinab Soleimani, Qasem Soleimani's daughter, addressed the Supreme Leader and the mourners.

"The mention of Qasem Soleimani's name now shakes Zionism, Takfirism and the forces of hegemony at their very foundations," she said to cries of cheers.

"The families of American troops in the Middle East, who witnessed America's humiliation in the wars of Syria, Iraq, Palestine and Yemen, will now count every passing day, dreading deaths of their sons and daughters" 

The Islamic Republic's highest-ranking leaders were all in attendance, including Soleimani's successor, Esmail Ghaani and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, as his coffin was paraded through the city. 

Ghaani, who has been sanctioned by the US since 2012 for funding Quds force operations conducted through proxies across the Middle East, vowed to take revenge for killing of his former senior in an interview with Iranian state television on Monday.

"God the almighty has promised to get his revenge, and God is the main avenger. Certainly actions will be taken," Ghaani said.

"We promise to continue down martyr Soleimani's path as firmly as before with help of God, and in return for his martyrdom we aim to get rid of America from the region," he said.

Despite months of nationwide protests over the hike in fuel prices which killed over 300 people, processional events marking Soleimani's killing have seen politicians and leaders across Iran taking part, temporarily silencing that anger. 

Following Monday's funeral, the commander's remains will be taken to holy Shia city of Qom for a ceremony, ahead of a funeral in his hometown of Kerman on Tuesday. 

Earlier on Sunday, Iran announced it would no longer abide by the "limit on the number of centrifuges" and resume extending its capacity for enriching uranium, abandoning the terms of its landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. 

Read more: Iran to abandon 'limit' on nuclear enrichment centrifuges 

On the same day, Iraq's parliament voted to expel all American troops based in the country. In response, US President Donald Trump declared his refusal to withdraw troops without the guarantee of billions in compensation.

"We will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before," he told the press.

"It'll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame. If there’s any hostility, that they do anything we think is inappropriate, we are going to put sanctions on Iraq, very big sanctions on Iraq."

He added: "We're not leaving until they pay us back for it."

Soleimani's killing marks a major escalation of tensions between Washington and Tehran, after months of back-and-forth attacks that have put the Middle East on edge. 

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