An attack by armed separatists on a police station in a southeastern city has killed 19 people, including four members of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard, Iran’s state-run news agency IRNA reported on Saturday.
The attackers in Friday’s attack hid among worshipers near a mosque in the city of Zahedan and attacked the nearby police station, according to the report.
IRNA quoted provincial governor Hossein Modaresi as saying 19 people had been killed. The outlet said 32 members of the Guard, including Basiji volunteer forces, were also injured in the clashes.
It was not immediately clear if the attack was related to nationwide anti-government protests that swept Iran following the death of a young Iranian woman in police custody.
Demonstrators light fires and block the road during a protest over the death of a woman arrested by morality police in downtown Tehran, Iran. (AP Photo) (Associated Press)
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Sistan and Balochistan province borders Afghanistan and Pakistan and has seen previous attacks on security forces by ethnic Baluchi separatists, although Saturday’s Tasnim report did not identify any separatist group allegedly involved in the attack.
IRNA on Saturday identified the dead as Hamidreza Hashemi, a Revolutionary Guard colonel; Mohammad Amin Azarshokr, a member of the Guard; Mohamad Amin Arefi, a Basiji or IRG volunteer; and Saeed Borhan Rigi, also a Basiji.
Tasnim and other Iranian news outlets linked to the state reported on Friday that the head of the Guards Intelligence Department, Seyyed Ali Mousavi, was shot dead during the attack and later died.
It is not uncommon for IRG members to have a presence at police stations across the country.
A police motorcycle burns during a protest against the death of a young woman who was arrested for flouting the country’s conservative dress code, in downtown Tehran, Iran. (AP photo)
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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 loosening her mandatory Islamic headscarf had worn .
The protesters have vented their anger at the treatment of women and wider oppression in the Islamic Republic. The nationwide demonstrations quickly escalated into calls to overthrow 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 operating along the border with neighboring Iraq. Amini was an Iranian Kurd and the protests first broke out in Kurdish areas.
Iranian state television has reported that at least 41 protesters and police officers have been killed since the demonstrations began on September 17. An Associated Press tally of official statements by authorities put at least 14 dead, with more than 1,500 protesters arrested.
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Also on Friday, Iran said it had detained nine foreigners linked to the protests, which authorities have blamed on hostile foreign entities, without providing evidence.
It was difficult to gauge the scale of the protests, especially outside of Tehran. Iranian media have reported only sporadically on the demonstrations.
Witnesses said isolated protests involving dozens of protesters took place around a university in downtown Tehran on Saturday. Riot police dispersed the protesters who chanted “Death to the dictator”. Some witnesses said the police fired tear gas.
People who followed the call of the German-Iranian Society in Berlin demonstrate in front of the Iranian embassy against the so-called “moral police” in Berlin, Germany, on Friday, September 23, 2022. (Wolfgang Kumm / dpa via AP)
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Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, meanwhile, reminded the Iranian armed forces of their duty to people’s lives and rights, foreign-based opposition channel Kaleme reported.
Mussavi’s Green Movement challenged Iran’s disputed 2009 presidential election in unrest at levels not seen since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, before it was crushed by authorities.
“Obviously, your ability that you have been awarded is that of defending people, not oppressing people, defending the oppressed, not serving powerful people and oppressors,” he said.