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Mon, 13 Jan 2020 13:25 - Updated Mon, 13 Jan 2020 13:25

Iran protesters take to the streets in third day of demos over plane

DUBAI - Protesters took to the streets of Iran for a third day on Monday, expressing outrage over the authorities’ admission that they had shot down a passenger plane by accident during a confrontation with the United States.

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Video from inside Iran showed riot police and protesters back out on the streets on Monday after two days of violent anti-government demonstrations. Images of the earlier protests showed slogans chanted against the supreme leader, with pools of blood on the streets and gunfire in the air.

Authorities denied that police had opened fire, while U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted: “don’t kill your protesters.”

Demonstrations at home against Iran’s rulers are the latest twist in one of the most destabilizing escalations between the United States and Iran since the Iranian revolution of 1979.

Tehran has acknowledged shooting down the Ukrainian jetliner by mistake on Wednesday, killing 176 people, hours after it had fired at U.S. bases to retaliate for the killing of Iran’s most powerful military commander in a drone strike ordered by Trump.

Iranian public anger, rumbling for days as Iran repeatedly denied it was to blame for the plane crash, erupted into protests on Saturday when the military admitted its role.

Videos posted late on Sunday recorded gunshots in the vicinity of protests in Tehran’s Azadi Square. Wounded were being carried and security personnel could be seen running with rifles. Other posts showed riot police hitting protesters with batons as people nearby shouted “Don’t beat them!”

“Death to the dictator,” footage circulating on social media showed protesters shouting, directing their fury at Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the system of clerical rule.

“They killed our elites and replaced them with clerics,” demonstrators chanted at a protest outside a university on Monday, an apparent reference to Iranian students returning to studies in Canada who were among those killed on the flight.

Reuters could not independently authenticate the footage. State-affiliated media reported the protests on Saturday and Sunday in Tehran and other cities, without giving such details.

“At protests, police absolutely did not shoot because the capital’s police officers have been given orders to show restraint,” Hossein Rahimi, head of the Tehran police, said in a statement carried by the state broadcaster’s website.

Iran’s latest showdown with the United States has come at a precarious time for the authorities in Tehran and their allies across the Middle East, when sanctions imposed by Trump have caused deep harm to the Iranian economy.

Iranian authorities killed hundreds of protesters in November in what appears to have been the bloodiest crackdown on anti-government unrest since the 1979 revolution. In Iraq and Lebanon, governments that have the support of Iran-backed armed groups have also faced months of hostile mass demonstrations.

Trump wrote on Twitter late on Sunday that National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien had “suggested today that sanctions & protests have Iran ‘choked off’, will force them to negotiate.”

“Actually, I couldn’t care less if they negotiate. Will be totally up to them but, no nuclear weapons and ‘don’t kill your protesters’,” he wrote, repeating his earlier tweets making similar calls to the Iranian authorities not to open fire.

Iran’s government spokesman dismissed Trump’s comments, saying Iranians were suffering because of his actions and they would remember that he had ordered the killing in a drone strike of Qassem Soleimani, the general whose death on Jan. 3 prompted huge mourning ceremonies in Iran over several days,REUTERS.

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