Iran in chaos: Ten seized in Tehran swoop on reform protesters as opposition accuse police of firing on demonstrators
Iran arrested at least ten leading opposition figures yesterday, 24 hours after eight people were killed in anti-government protests.
The Norooz website said three advisers to opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi had been detained, along with seven pro-reform politicians.
Jaras, another opposition website, said police fired teargas to disperse Mousavi supporters who gathered to express their condolences over the death of his nephew, who was killed in Sunday's protests.
The tables are turned: Opposition demonstrators get the better of riot police after yesterday's protests turned to violence. Eight people were either gunned down or beaten to death by the end of the day
Iran's Supreme National Security Council said eight were killed across Iran in the protests which flared up during the Shia Muslim religious festival of Ashura.
The deaths and scale of confrontations may signal a volatile new phase in which security forces loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei seek to crush the reformist movement.
'These are the hardest clashes we've seen since June,' said a Western diplomat in Tehran, adding that bitterness over the deaths could spark new protests and a harsh state reaction.
He said Iran's leadership was under great pressure but showed no sign of losing its grip over the security apparatus.
An Iranian opposition supporter covers his face with his bloodstained hand during clashes with security forces in Tehran yesterday
An injured Iranian opposition supporter flashes a V-sign during clashes with security forces as an opposition supporter gestures next to a burning police motorcycle
State television said unknown assailants had killed Mousavi's nephew Ali Habibi Mousavi Khamene, whose death was described as martyrdom by an ally of the opposition leader.
Police said the 'suspicious deaths' were under investigation and that 300 protesters had been arrested.
They said dozens of security men had been injured in the running street clashes.
State television said members of an exiled opposition group, the Mujahideen Khalq Organisation, were among those arrested.
It quoted a senior police official as saying the security forces had not used weapons, apparently meaning firearms.
Jaras said opposition politician Ebrahim Yazdi, leader of the banned Freedom Movement and foreign minister in Iran's first government after the 1979 Islamic revolution that overthrew the U.S.-backed shah, was detained early on Monday at his home.
Yazdi, who was also detained after the June election, is an important opposition voice, but has limited popular support.
Jaras said police shot dead four protesters in central Tehran on Sunday and that unrest had also erupted in the cities of Qom, Shiraz, Isfahan, Najafabad, Mashhad and Babol.
Brutal: Baton-weilding riot police sprint across a rock-strewn highway as they chase after protesters yesterday
A riot police officer is held by protesters, as they put a green scarf, a symbolic colour of opposition, on his head after their clash during anti-government protests in Tehran
Injured members of an Iranian security service sit protected by Iranian opposition supporters during clashes yesterday
The reports could not be independently verified because foreign media are banned from directly covering protests.
Tabriz prosecutor Yahya Mirzamohammadi denied a Jaras report that four protesters had been killed in the northwestern city. He told the ISNA news agency no protests had occurred there.
The United States condemned Iran's 'unjust suppression' of civilians.
A hardline clerical group in the holy city of Qom condemned the 'sedition by rioters' during the Shi'ite Muslim religious ritual of Ashura, the official IRNA news agency said.
'The association of Qom theologians ... asks officials to identify those behind yesterday's events and take appropriate measures to firmly encounter and punish them according to legal and religious standards,' it said in a statement.
Political turmoil has convulsed Iran since the re-election of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a vote his opponents said was fraudulent, a charge the authorities deny.
Heavy security measures eventually quelled the first wave of mass protests that plunged Iran into its biggest internal crisis since the 1979 Islamic revolution
A protester, left, throwing a rock at anti-riot police officers, as their bikes are set on fire
A woman protester holding a poster of opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi. Right, last picture of 35-year-old Ali Habibi Mousavi Khamene
Demonstrations have persisted, increasingly on important days in the Islamic republic's religious and political calendar, as the opposition seeks to sustain its own momentum.
Heavy security measures eventually quelled the first wave of mass protests that plunged Iran into its biggest internal crisis since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
The opposition says more than 70 people were killed in the early protests. Officials say the toll -- including members of a pro-government Islamic militia -- was less than half that.
The unrest, which has divided the political and clerical elite, has also complicated Iran's decision-making in the long-running dispute over its nuclear programme, which the West fears is a cover to build bombs. Tehran denies this.
Trita Parsi, a U.S.-based analyst, said the latest violence might turn out to be a 'breaking point' for Iran's rulers.
'If so, it shows that the Iranian theocracy ultimately fell on its own sword. It didn't come to an end due to the efforts of exiled opposition groups or the regime change schemes of Washington's neo-conservatives,' wrote Parsi, who is president of the National Iranian American Council.
'Rather, the Iranian people are the main characters in this drama, using the very same symbols that brought the Islamic Republic into being to close this chapter in a century-old struggle for democracy.'
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