Separatists in Iran kill up to 19 including Guard commander — Naharnet

Iranian state-linked media reported late Friday that up to 19 people, including a commander of the paramilitary Revolutionary Guards, had been killed in an attack by armed separatists on a police base in the eastern city. from Zahedan.

It was not immediately clear whether the attack, which unfolded earlier in the day as crowds gathered at a nearby mosque for Friday prayers, was linked to nationwide anti-government protests. in Iran. Reports did not identify the separatist group.

In a separate development, Iran said it arrested nine foreigners linked to the protests, which authorities blamed on hostile foreign entities, without providing evidence.

State television said armed separatists hid among worshipers and attacked a police base near the Zahedan mosque. The state-run IRNA news agency quoted witnesses as saying 19 people were killed and 15 injured, but there was no official confirmation.

The semi-official Tasnim news agency reported that the head of the Guard’s intelligence department, Seyyed Ali Mousavi, was shot dead in the attack and later died.

The province of Sistan-Balochistan borders Afghanistan and Pakistan and has previously been the scene of attacks on security forces by ethnic Baloch separatists.

Thousands of Iranians have taken to the streets over the past two weeks to protest the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was arrested by morality police in the capital, Tehran, for allegedly wearing her Mandatory Islamic headscarf. too vaguely.

Protesters have expressed anger over the treatment of women and wider repression in the Islamic Republic. Nationwide protests quickly turned into calls for the overthrow of the clerical establishment that has ruled Iran since its 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The protests have drawn supporters from various ethnic groups, including Kurdish opposition movements in the northwest that operate along the border with neighboring Iraq. Amini was an Iranian Kurd and the protests first broke out in Kurdish areas.

Iran’s Intelligence Ministry said the nine foreigners arrested included German, Polish, Italian, French, Dutch and Swedish citizens, the official IRNA news agency reported. It was not immediately clear whether they were Iranians with dual nationality.

The department did not provide any evidence to support its claims.

Iran has detained a number of Iranians with dual nationality over the years, accusing them of spying or undermining national security. Critics accuse Iran of using these detainees as bargaining chips to extract concessions from the international community.

A number of Europeans have been detained in Iran in recent months, including a Swedish tourist, a Polish scientist and others. Two French citizens arrested in June are accused of meeting protesting teachers and participating in an anti-government rally.

Earlier on Friday, London-based rights group Amnesty International said it had acquired leaked government documents showing Iran had ordered its security forces to ‘severely confront’ protesters as protests grew stronger at the start. of the month.

The London-based rights group said security forces had killed at least 52 people since protests over Amini’s death began nearly two weeks ago, including firing live ammunition into crowds and beating protesters with batons.

It says security forces have also beaten and groped women protesters who remove their headscarves to protest Iran’s theocracy’s treatment of women.

Amnesty said it had obtained a leaked copy of an official document stating that the headquarters of the armed forces had ordered commanders on September 21 to “severely confront troublemakers and anti-revolutionaries”. The rights group says the use of lethal force escalated later that evening, with at least 34 people killed that night alone.

He said another leaked document shows that, two days later, the Mazandran province commander ordered security forces to “ruthlessly confront, even causing death, any disturbance by rioters. and anti-revolutionaries,” referring to those who oppose Iran’s 1979 Islam. Revolution, which brought the clerics to power.

Amnesty did not say how it acquired the documents. There was no immediate comment from Iranian authorities.

Iranian state television reported that at least 41 protesters and police have been killed since the protests began on September 17. An Associated Press tally of official statements by authorities put at least 14 people dead, with more than 1,500 protesters arrested.

According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 28 journalists have been arrested.

Iranian authorities have severely restricted internet access and blocked access to Instagram and WhatsApp, popular social media apps that are also used by protesters to organize and share information.

It is therefore difficult to assess the scale of the protests, especially outside the capital, Tehran. Iranian media only sporadically covered the protests.

Iranians have long used virtual private networks and proxies to circumvent government-imposed internet restrictions.

Shervin Hajipour, an Iranian amateur singer, recently posted a song on Instagram based on tweets about Amini which received over 40 million views in less than 48 hours before it was taken down. Iran Human Rights Organization, a Norway-based group, said Hajipour was reportedly arrested. There has been no official confirmation.

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