2 killed in protests across Iran overnight

2 killed in protests across Iran overnight
At least two people taking part in pro- and anti-government rallies in Iran were killed overnight, local media reported, citing officials. These are the first fatalities attributed to the recent mass protests.

The deaths were reported in the city of Doroud (Dorud), 325 kilometers southwest of Tehran, in Iran’s western Lorestan Province, the semi-official Mehr News Agency reported. The unauthorized rally ignited clashes, Habibollah Khojastepour, the security deputy of Lorestan’s governor, told the agency, adding that two protesters were killed in the clashes.

“The gathering was to be ended peacefully, but due to the presence of the [agitators], unfortunately, this happened,” Khojastepour said. The official did not specify the causes of the deaths, adding that “no bullets were shot from police and security forces at the people.”

The ongoing protests across Iran started on Thursday as a demonstration against soaring food prices and unemployment, snowballing into the biggest anti-government movement in eight years.

Speaking to state TV, Khojastehpour said that those killed in Doroud were targeted by foreign agents, not the police, Reuters reports. “We have found evidence of enemies of the revolution, Takfiri [Sunni extremists] groups and foreign agents in this clash.”

Thousands of pro- and anti-government demonstrators have taken to the streets across Iran since Thursday. Anti-government protests were prompted mostly by discontent over economic hardship and alleged corruption. The crowds also aimed their anger at the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“People are protesting because [they] are under economic pressure and the government must be responsive in the face of rising inflation and these economic hardships,” Mostafa Kiaie, a demonstrator, said, as cited by AFP. 

Pro-government protests were held in around 1,200 cities and towns, local media reported. Mass pro-government protests took place in Tehran and Mashhad, Iran’s second most populous city.

The demonstrations were the most serious since the unrest back in 2009 that followed the Iranian presidential election results. The protesters disputed the victory of then-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

On Sunday, Iran’s interior minister warned that “violence, fear and terror” will be battled following the third consecutive night of unrest. “Those who damage public property, disrupt the order and break the law must be responsible for their behaviour and pay the price,” Abdolrahman Rahmani Fazli said on state television, as cited by AFP. 

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