THOUSANDS of mourners flocked to Ahvaz yesterday morning to receive the remains of Qasem Soleimani, the general killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad last week.

The mourners beat their chests and chanted “death to America”.

Soleimani played a key role in Iran’s sphere of influence across the Middle East and was considered the country’s second most powerful man.

His assassination marked a significant escalation between Iran and the US.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, who had a close relationship with Soleimani, warned of “severe revenge” for the attack.

Analysts said Iran might pursue cyber attacks against the US or traditional attacks on US targets or interests in the Middle East.

On Saturday, US President Donald Trump threatened to hit 52 Iranian sites “very hard” if Iran attacked US citizens or assets.

He wrote on Twitter: “If they attack again, which I would strongly advise them not to do, we will hit them harder than they have ever been hit before!”

He followed up with another tweet, saying the US would use its “brand new beautiful” military equipment “without hesitation” if Iran retaliated.

On Sunday, Iran’s Information Minister Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi tweeted: “Like ISIS, like Hitler, like Genghis! They all hate cultures. Trump is a terrorist in a suit.

“He will learn very soon that nobody can defeat ‘the great Iranian nation and culture”.

Authorities took Soleimani’s body to Mashhad on Sunday, and plan the same for Tehran and Qom today for public mourning processions. –­ NEWS24/REUTERS