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Ceremonies Begin In Ahvaz For Iranian Quds Force Commander


Screen Grab From IRIB Broadcast From Ahvaz Showing Ceremonies To Honor Qasem Soleimani,

By RFE/RL

Ceremonies have begun in the Iranian city of Ahvaz to honor Qasem Soleimani, the commander or Iran's Quds Force who was killed earlier in the week by a U.S. air strike while traveling in a convoy in Iraq.

The official IRIB news agency on January 5 said Soleimani's body was returned to Iran earlier in the day and flown to Ahvaz in southwestern Iran.

IRIB posted a video clip of a casket wrapped in an Iranian flag as it was unloaded from a plane as a military band played.

State TV broadcast live scenes of thousands of mourners dressed in black marching through Ahvaz.

As head of the Quds Force, the 62-year-old Soleimani helped orchestrate Tehran's overseas clandestine and military operations.

The Quds Force, the foreign arm of Iran's hard-line Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), has been designated a foreign terrorist organization by the United States.

He was killed in an U.S. air strike, most likely by a drone, as he traveled in a convoy of Iran-backed militia members after leaving the Baghdad airport in the early morning hours of January 3 -- a strike that substantially raised tensions between Washington and Tehran.

Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a deputy commander of the Iran-backed Hashd Shaabi militia in Iraq, was also killed in the raid.

Mourners marched earlier in Baghdad for Soleimani and others killed in the raid, while many anti-Iran protesters celebrated the deaths at other sites in Iraq.

U.S. President Donald Trump said he ordered the strike on Soleimani, saying the Iranian commander had organized attacks on U.S. and Iraqi targets and that he was planning further terror actions.

Iran has promised "harsh revenge" for the U.S. attack on Soleimani, one of the most powerful military men in Iran.




With reporting by AP, Reuters, and AFP

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