At least 12 people have been killed in anti-government protests in Iran and security forces have had to fight off “armed protestors” trying to take over police stations and military bases, reports in the country’s state media suggest.
Authorities had previously confirmed four deaths but the total is now believed to have risen after tens of thousands of people joined the protests, which began last week.
State TV said a police officer had been shot dead and three others wounded, the first reported security force fatality since anti-government demonstrations began last week.
“A rioter took advantage of the situation in the city of Najaf Abad and fired shots at police forces with a hunting rifle,” police spokesman Saeed Montazer al-Mahdi was quoted as saying. “As a result, three were wounded, and one was martyred.”
The broadcaster did not say when the officers were shot.
Two people were killed in clashes on Sunday night, adding to the two deaths confirmed on Saturday. Hundreds of people have been arrested in the demonstrations.
State TV reported that some “armed protestors” had tried to storm security facilities.
“Some armed protesters tried to take over some police stations and military bases but faced serious resistance from security forces,” it said.
As demonstrations continued, Hassan Rouhani, the Iran President, insisted people were “absolutely free to criticise”, but said violence would not be tolerated.
He said: “The government will show no tolerance for those who damage public properties, violate public order and create unrest in the society.
“People are absolutely free to criticise the government and protest but their protests should be in such a way as to improve the situation in the country and their life.
“Criticism is different from violence and and damaging public properties.”
Authorities temporarily suspended access to Instagram and the messaging app Telegram, which has been used to start and publicise many of the demonstrations.
The initial protests were over economic difficulties, rising food prices and alleged corruption among the elite, but there were also demands for the country’s unelected leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to resign.
Videos posted on social media showed demonstrators chanting: “Mullahs, have some shame, leave the country alone.”
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