PARIS, TEHRAN (AA/AFP) – Six more security personnel were killed by armed assailants across Iran on Thursday amid sweeping protests triggered by the death of a young woman in September.
Col. Hassan Yousefi was traveling with another police officer in the northwestern city of Sanandaj when they were attacked with knives and stones, according to the judiciary-affiliated Mizan News.
Yousefi died on the spot, while the other officer was admitted to a local hospital in critical condition.
A video shared on social media showed the victim lying on the road with his head bleeding.
In a separate incident in the northeastern city of Mashhad, two young members of the paramilitary volunteer Basiji forces were stabbed to death by unidentified men.
According to Mashhad Governor Mohsen Davari, a group of armed men on Thursday called on local shopkeepers to close their shutters as part of a three-day protest marking the third anniversary of the November 2019 unrest in Iran over soaring fuel prices.
Soon afterwards, a group of men carrying weapons attacked the paramilitary Basiji forces, stabbing two of them to death and injuring three others, the governor said.
The two slain men were identified as Hossein Zeinalzadeh and Danial Rezazadeh.
CCTV footage posted online showed a knife-wielding man stabbing one of them before striking a few others amid a scuffle.
Ibrahim Gafarian, a Basiji member who was injured, later succumbed to his wounds at a local hospital, authorities said, bringing the death toll in the incident to three.
Police said the attacker had been arrested, without giving his identity.
In a separate incident reported late Thursday, two security personnel were killed in clashes with armed protesters in Bukan, a city in northwestern West Azerbaijan province.
The identities of the slain men were not revealed immediately.
Mourners hit streets
Hundreds of mourners poured onto the streets of an Iranian city Thursday, defying a lethal crackdown on protests.
Iran’s foreign minister and media raised the spectre of civil war.
This week’s protests coincide with the third anniversary of “Bloody Aban” — or Bloody November — when hundreds were killed in a crackdown on street violence that erupted over a shock overnight decision to hike fuel prices.
Security forces on Thursday killed one protester in Bukan and two in Sanandaj, where mourners were paying tribute to “four victims of the popular resistance” 40 days after they were slain, the Oslo-based Hengaw rights group said.
People thronged the streets even as the sound of gunfire was heard in a video published by Hengaw and verified by AFP.
‘Death to the dictator’
“Death to the dictator,” protesters chanted in another online video as they marched down a street in Sanandaj filled with bonfires, directing their fury at Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The tradition in Iran of holding a “chehelom” mourning ceremony 40 days after a death has fuelled the demonstrations that have become the regime’s biggest challenge from the street in decades.
Fears are growing that the regime is turning “more violent after being unable to suppress the people for two months”, said Saeid Golkar, from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Speculation has mounted that Iran’s leadership has decided to crush the protest movement in the same way that it did in November 2019, when security forces killed at least 304 people, according to Amnesty International.
The unrest has been fanned by fury over the brutal enforcement of the mandatory hijab law, but has grown into a broad movement against the clergy that has ruled Iran since the 1979 revolution.
In the southwestern city of Izeh, “a terrorist group took advantage of a gathering of protesters” to shoot dead seven people — including a 45-year-old woman, two children aged nine and 13, IRNA said.
Three police officers and two Basij members were wounded, a security official told state TV.
But a family member of the nine-year-old boy killed on Wednesday, identified as Kian Pirfalak, accused security forces of carrying out the attack. The accusation came in a tweet shared by US-funded Radio Farda.
“He was going home with his father and was targeted with bullets by the corrupt regime of the Islamic republic. Their car was attacked from all four sides,” the unidentified family member is heard saying in an audio recording.
Elsewhere, Hengaw accused the security forces of killing at least 10 people within a 24-hour period up until late Wednesday at protests in several cities.
IRNA said “rioters” had damaged and burned public property in Bukan, including setting fire to the municipality building. It added that police later dispersed them.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abollahian accused Israel and its allies of plotting a “civil war in” the Islamic republic.
But, he tweeted, they “must know that Iran is not Libya or Sudan” and that the “wisdom of our people has thwarted their plan”.
Fars news agency, which is close to the authorities, said the attacks Wednesday show “that those who want to dismantle the country have entered into the armed action phase”.
No one has claimed responsibility for the motorcycle attacks.
These actions were carried out “with the aim of inciting the people and security forces to a civil war,” after a “large quantity of weapons” clandestinely entered the country, Fars said.
General Hossein Salami, head of the Revolutionary Guards, said Iran was facing a “conspiracy” by foreigners including the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia who “are preparing to fight God, his prophet and the martyrs.” He was quoted by Fars.
Iran Human Rights, another Oslo-based organisation, said Wednesday that security forces had killed at least 342 people since the start of protests.
Iran was seeking the death penalty for at least 21 people in “sham trials designed to intimidate” protesters, Amnesty International said.