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Iranian Guard warns cleric of 'agitation' in restless southeast

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  • Dozens were reported killed in Zahedan on 30 September
  • Deadliest incident during protests over Amini’s death
  • Revolutionary Guards warn cleric after call for accountability
  • Reported strikes in Kurdish areas

DUBAI, Oct 22 (Reuters) – Iran’s Revolutionary Guards accused a Sunni cleric of inciting against the Islamic Republic and warned it could cost it dearly after it said officials, including the religious leader, were responsible for the killing of dozens in the city of Zahedan last month.

Amnesty International said security forces had killed at least 66 people in a crackdown after Friday prayers in southeastern Zahedan on 30 September, in one of the deadliest unrest during the five-week protests sparked by Mahsa Amini’s death.

Zahidan’s leading Sunni cleric Molavi Abdolhamid said in a Friday sermon that officials, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the head of the Shiite-dominated state, were “responsible before God” for the September 30 murders.

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In a brief statement from Sepah News, the official news site of the Revolutionary Guards, “Mr. Abdulhamid, inciting and inciting the youth against the holy Islamic Republic of Iran may cost you dearly! This is the last warning!” it was said.

The protests, sparked by the death of 22-year-old Iranian Kurd Amini, who died after being detained by the moral police for “inappropriate dress”, constituted one of the most daring challenges to the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution.

While the protests didn’t seem close to overthrowing the government, unrest swept across the country, including in areas home to ethnic minorities who have long-standing grievances against the state.

Zahedan is the provincial capital of southeastern Iran’s Sistan-Baluchistan province on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan, home to the Baluch ethnic minority.

State media said that during the violence on 30 September, “unidentified gunmen” opened fire on a police station, causing security forces to return fire.

The Revolutionary Guards said that five members of their own forces and volunteer Basij militia were killed during the violence on September 30. Authorities blamed a Baluchi militant group. Neither that group nor any other group played a role.


After protests broke out again in Zahedan on Friday, the deputy minister for security Majid Mir Ahmadi said calm has returned, the official news agency IRNA reported on Saturday.

150 “bandits attacked public property and even Sunni shops,” he said.

Police arrested at least 57 people identified as “rebels” after protesters threw stones and attacked banks in the city, provincial police chief Ahmed Taheri said on Friday, the official news agency IRNA said on Friday.

State television said up to 300 protesters marched in the city after Friday prayers. He showed banks and shops with broken windows.

Sunni cleric Abdolhamid described the September 30 murder as a massacre and said that bullets were fired in the heads and chests. “Many people were killed here. I don’t know the exact number. Some say 90, some say less, some say more,” he said in the sermon published on his website.

Human rights groups say the government has long discriminated against ethnic minorities, including Kurds, and unrest in the region has been particularly intense since Amini’s death.

The state denies the discrimination accusations.

Iran blamed the unrest on a number of enemies, including armed dissidents. Revolutionary Guards attacked the bases of armed Iranian Kurdish groups in neighboring Iraq.

Protesters sought to emphasize national unity with chants expressing solidarity among various ethnic groups.

Rights groups Hengaw reported on Saturday that shopkeepers went on strike in Sanandaj, the provincial capital of Iran’s Kurdistan province, and in Saqez, Amini’s hometown, and another northwest city, Bukan.

Activist news agency HRANA reported on Friday that 244 protesters, 32 of them minors, were killed in unrest across the country. State television reported that at least 26 security guards were killed during the events.

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reporting by Dubai newsroom; Writing by Tom Perry; Edited by Alex Richardson

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