Iran protests continue into third night

Tehran (AFP) – Reports of clashes and marches spread across Iran on Saturday as protests spilled into a third night despite government warnings against any further “illegal gatherings”.

Unverified videos on social media appeared to show thousands marching through the western cities of Khorramabad, Zanjan and Ahvaz and many smaller towns, while reports spread rapidly that several people had been shot dead by police in the town of Dorud.

A swirl of wild rumours, combined with travel restrictions and a near-total media blackout from official agencies, made it difficult to confirm the reports.

The authorities appeared to respond by temporarily cutting internet access to mobile phones, but full coverage was eventually restored.

Several Iranian news agencies warned Telegram, the most popular social media service in the country, might soon be shut down after communications minister Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi accused one channel, Amadnews, of encouraging an “armed uprising”.

One of the few official reports — by conservative Mehr news agency — showed protesters attacking a town hall in central Tehran, overturning a police car and burning the Iranian flag.

There was chaos earlier around the capital’s university as hundreds took to the streets, blocking traffic and shouting slogans against the regime.

But the authorities could also count on a show of strength, with hundreds of counter-demonstrators seizing control of the university entrance, chanting “Death to the seditionists”.

Annual rallies marking the defeat of the last major protest movement in 2009 had already been scheduled for Saturday morning and brought thousands of regime supporters to the streets across the country.

“We urge all those who receive these calls to protest not to participate in these illegal gatherings as they will create problems for themselves and other citizens,” said Interior Minister Abdolrahman Rahmani Fazli.

– ‘A new plot’ –

The protests began in the second city of Mashhad on Thursday as an attack…

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