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Iran denies shooting at protesters amid fury over downing of plane

The demonstrations are the latest development in one of the most destabilising escalations between the US and Iran since the Iranian revolution of 1979.

A woman attending a candlelight vigil, in memory of the victims of Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737, talks to a policeman following the gathering in front of the Amirkabir University in the Iranian capital Tehran on 11 January 2020. Picture: AFP

DUBAI - Iran’s police said on Monday officers had not fired at protesters demonstrating over Tehran’s admission that it shot down a passenger plane, as video on social media recorded gunshots and pools of blood.

US President Donald Trump, tweeting on Sunday during a second day of Iranian demonstrations, told the authorities “don’t kill your protesters.”

The demonstrations at home are the latest development in one of the most destabilising escalations between the United States and Iran since the Iranian revolution of 1979.

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

Iranian public anger, rumbling for days as Iran repeatedly denied it was to blame for Wednesday’s plane crash, erupted into protests on Saturday when the military admitted it. Demonstrators turned out again on Sunday.

Videos on social media, posted late on Sunday, recorded gunshots in the vicinity of protests in Tehran’s Azadi Square. Footage showed blood on the ground, wounded being carried and people who seemed to be security personnel 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 Ali Khamenei.

“They are lying that our enemy is America, our enemy is right here,” another group outside a Tehran university chanted.

Reuters could not independently authenticate the footage. But 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 include Iran-backed armed groups have also faced months of hostile mass demonstrations.

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