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Iranian crisis deepens as 10 are killed

January 1, 2018

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has appealed for calm but also warned that violence won't be tolerated. Protests began last week over rising prices but quickly morphed into anti-government demonstrations.

Proteste in Teheran
Image: Reuters

More deaths in Iran as protests continue – AFP correspondent Eric Randolph

Iranian officials were expected to hold an emergency meeting Monday to discuss a burgeoning security crisis after 10 people were killed overnight as nationwide demonstrations continued.

The overall death toll is currently 12, and hundreds more have been arrested.

Of those who died, six people were killed in the small western town of Tuyserkan and at least two more people were shot dead in the southwestern town of Izeh, according to local TV reports.

"In this incident (in Tuyserkan), there were shots fired in which three people died and three other people were killed in subsequent events," a news presenter on state television said without elaborating.

While showing video footage of the damage caused by the protests, the state TV also reported, "In the events of last night, unfortunately, a total of about 10 people were killed in several cities." It gave no further details of the deaths.

Rouhani acknowledges anger

Hedayatollah Khademi, a member of parliament who represents Izeh and the surrounding region, reported two of the latest deaths to Iranian media on Monday.

"People of Izeh, like some other cities, held a protest against economic problems and unfortunately it led to the killing of two people and injuries to some others," Khademi, told the ILNA news agency.

"I do not know yet whether last night's shooting was by the protesters or by police," he added.

State TV reported, "Some armed protesters tried to take over some police stations and military bases but faced serious resistance from security forces." It did not say where those attacks took place.

Protests against economic problems broke out in several towns and cities for the fourth night.

Demonstrators in Izeh, a town of about 200,000 people, broke bank windows as protests continued until around midnight (2030 GMT), according to Khademi.

Eric Randolph (AFP) from Tehran

"That's why police intervened to restore peace and order," Khademi told ILNA. "The governor said [the gunfire] was unlikely to be by police as they were not supposed to open fire," he said in a separate interview with the reformist Etamad newspaper.

Appeal for calm ignored

The protests continued despite President Hassan Rouhani's appeal for calm. He said Iranians have the right to criticize the authorities but warned of a crackdown against unrest.

"Our nation will deal with this minority who chant slogans against the law and people's wishes, and insult the sanctities and values of the revolution," he said in a statement on his official website. "Criticism and protest are an opportunity not a threat. The nation will themselves respond to the rioters and lawbreakers."

Despite the president's comments, messages on social media called on Iranians to protest in the capital, Tehran, and 50 other urban centers, many of which have already seen anti-government demonstrations, which began in Masshad, Iran's second largest city, as protests over rising prices. Some protesters called for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to step down and chanted against a government they described as thieves.

Police responded to the violent protests with water cannons and tear gas in an effort to break up protests in multiple cities, including Tehran. Some demonstrations also turned violent, with cars being set on fire and other damage.

bik/sms (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)