Iran Protests: Nine Killed Overnight; Supreme Leader Blames Foreign 'Cash, Arms and Agents'

Unrest enters sixth day, with at least 20 killed in largest protests to sweep Iran in years ■ Over 450 arrested

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Debris is seen during a protest in Alborz Province, Iran, in this still image taken from video on December 31, 2017.
Debris is seen during a protest in Alborz Province, Iran, in this still image taken from video on December 31, 2017.Credit: REUTERS TV/REUTERS

Iranian state television is reporting that nine people have been killed overnight amid nationwide protests and unrest. The report Tuesday puts the death toll in six days of demonstrations to at least 20 people, as officials said over 400 people were arrested in the past three days.

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Meanwhile, Iran's Supreme Leader accused enemies of the Islamic Republic of stirring unrest, as anti-government demonstrations that began last week continued.

"In recent days, enemies of Iran used different tools including cash, weapons, politics and intelligence apparatus to create troubles for the Islamic Republic," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was quoted as saying in a post on his official website.

Khamenei said he would address the nation about the recent events "when the time is right".

>> Iran regime's dilemma: End protests with force or persuasion? | Analysis <<

State TV says six rioters were killed during an attack on a police station in the town of Qahdarijan. It reported that clashes were sparked by rioters who tried to steal guns from the police station.

State TV says an 11-year-old boy and a 20-year-old man were killed in the town of Khomeinishahr, while a member of Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard was killed in the town of Najafabad. It says all were shot by hunting rifles.

It wasn't clear if the Revolutionary Guard member was the same fatality report late Monday night by Iran's semi-official Mehr news agency. Mehr had said an assailant using a hunting rifle killed a policeman and wounded three others in Najafabad.

The towns are all in Iran's central Isfahan province, some 350 kilometers (215 miles) south of Tehran.

The demonstrations, the largest to strike Iran since its disputed 2009 presidential election, have seen five days of unrest across the country.

A semi-official news agency in Iran is reporting that 450 people have been arrested over three days in Tehran. "200 people were arrested on Saturday, 150 people on Sunday and around 100 people on Monday," Ali Asghar Naserbakht, deputy governor of Tehran province, was quoted as saying by semi-official ILNA news agency on Tuesday.

The protests began Thursday in Mashhad over Iran's weak economy and a jump in food prices and have expanded to several cities, with some protesters chanting against the government and the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Hundreds of people have been arrested.

Iranian state television aired footage of a ransacked private bank, broken windows, overturned cars and a firetruck that appeared to have been set ablaze. It said 10 people were killed by security forces during clashes Sunday night.

"Some armed protesters tried to take over some police stations and military bases but faced serious resistance from security forces," state TV said.

In a later report, state TV said killed six people were killed in the western town of Tuyserkan, 295 kilometers (185 miles) southwest of Tehran, and three in the town of Shahinshahr, 315 kilometers (195 miles) south of Tehran. It did not say where the 10th person was killed.

Earlier Monday, the semi-official ILNA news agency quoted Hedayatollah Khademi, a representative for the town of Izeh, as saying two people died there Sunday night. He said the cause of death wasn't immediately known, though authorities later described one of the deaths as the result of a personal dispute.

Late Monday, Iran's semi-official Mehr news agency said an assailant using a hunting rifle killed a policeman and wounded three other officers during a demonstration in the central city of Najafabad, about 320 kilometers (200 miles) south of Tehran. The slaying marked the first security force member to be killed in the unrest.

Two protesters also were killed during clashes late Saturday in Doroud, some 325 kilometers (200 miles) southwest of Tehran in Lorestan province, authorities have said.

On Sunday, Iran blocked access to Instagram and the popular messaging app Telegram used by activists to organize.

President Hassan Rohani acknowledged the public's anger over the Islamic Republic's flagging economy, though he and others warned that the government wouldn't hesitate to crack down on those it considers lawbreakers.

That was echoed Monday by judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, who urged authorities to confront rioters, state TV reported.

"I demand all prosecutors across the country to get involved and the approach should be strong," he said.

Rouhani also stressed Monday that Iran "has seen many similar events and passed them easily."

U.S. President Donald Trump, who has been tweeting in support of the protesters, continued into the New Year, describing Iran as "failing at every level despite the terrible deal made with them by the Obama Administration."

"The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years," he wrote. "They are hungry for food & for freedom. Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted. TIME FOR CHANGE!"

While some have shared Trump's tweets, many in Iran distrust him because he has refused to re-certify the nuclear deal and his travel bans have blocked Iranians from getting U.S. visas.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling the protesters "brave" and "heroic," said in a video posted to YouTube on Monday that the protesters sought freedom, justice and "the basic liberties that have been denied to them for decades."

He criticized the Iranian regime's response to the protests and also chided European governments for watching "in silence" as the protests turn violent.

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