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Death toll rises in Iran unrest as protesters 'attempt to take over police stations and military bases'

President Hassan Rouhani called for a calm but stressed that people were free to express criticism.

Iran Protest Tear gas being fired by anti-riot Iranian police to disperse demonstrators in Tehran. Source: PA Images

AT LEAST 12 people have been killed in the ongoing protests in Iran, and armed protesters have tried to take over police stations and military bases, state TV reports.

The protests began on Thursday in Mashhad over economic issues and have since expanded to several cities. Hundreds of people have been arrested.

The state TV report said 10 were killed during clashes Sunday night, without elaborating.

Two demonstrators were killed during a protest in western Iran on Saturday.

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

Earlier Monday, the semi-official ILNA news agency quoted Hedayatollah Khademi, a representative for the town of Izeh, as saying two people died there last night. He said the cause of death wasn’t immediately known. Many in Izeh, some 455 kilometers southwest of Tehran, have hunting rifles in their homes.

“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,” Hedayatollah Khademi, the local MP, told the ILNA news agency, adding it was unclear who had fired the shots.

Two others died in the small western town of Dorud when they were hit by a fire engine stolen by protesters, and ILNA reported a school for clergy and government buildings were torched in the northwestern town of Takestan.

Iran Hassan Rouhani Source: PA Images

Rouhani finally broke his silence last night about the protests that mark the biggest test for the regime since mass demonstrations in 2009.

“The people are absolutely free in expressing their criticisms and even protests,” Rouhani said in a message on the state broadcaster.

But criticism is different to violence and destroying public property.

Police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse a small protest in Tehran’s Enghelab Square yesterday evening, according to unverified social media videos.

There were also reports of protests in the cities of Kermanshah, Khorramabad, Shahinshahr and Toyserkan in the west, and Zanjan in north Iran.

Iran Protest University students attend a protest inside Tehran University. Source: PA Images

More than 400 people have been arrested in the four days of protest across Iran.

Verifying reports remained challenging due to travel restrictions and sporadic blocks on mobile internet and popular social media sites including Telegram and Instagram.

The protests began as demonstrations against economic conditions in second city Mashhad on Thursday but quickly turned against the Islamic regime as a whole, with thousands marching in towns across Iran to chants of “Death to the dictator”.

Iran Protests Pro-regime protests like this one also took place across the country. Source: PA Images

Rouhani sought a conciliatory tone, saying that government bodies “should provide space for legal criticism and protest” and calling for greater transparency and a more balanced media.

US President Donald Trump, a fierce critic of Tehran, said the “big protests” showed people “were getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism”.

Rouhani dismissed Trump’s comments.

“This man who today in America wants to sympathise with our people has forgotten that a few months ago he called the nation of Iran terrorist.”

© – AFP 2018. Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Read: Iran warns protesters they will ‘pay the price’ after third night of mass demonstrations >

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