DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Gunmen attacked Iran’s main Shiite holy site on Wednesday, killing at least 15 people and injuring dozens. The attacks came as protesters elsewhere in Iran symbolically marked the 40th day since the death of a woman in custody sparked the biggest rebel movement in more than a decade.
State television called the cause of the attack “Takfiris.” It is a term used to refer to Sunni Islamist extremists who have in the past targeted the country’s Shia majority. The attack seemed unrelated to the demonstration.
Two shooters have been arrested and a third is on the run after the attack on Iran’s second holiest site, the Shah Chella Mosque, according to the judiciary’s official website. His state-run IRNA news agency reported the death toll, and state television said he had 40 wounded.
An Iranian news website believed to be close to the Supreme National Security Council reported that the attacker was a foreigner, without elaborating.
Such attacks are rare in Iran, but last April the Imam Reza temple, the country’s most revered Shiite holy site in the northeastern city of Mashhad, was attacked by two cleric attackers. was stabbed to death.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said whoever spearheaded or planned the attack would be “deplorably and decisively dealt with”, without elaborating.
Quoting Raisi, IRNA said, “This evil will never be solved.”
Thousands of protesters flooded the streets of the northwestern city early Wednesday, 40 days after 22-year-old Masa Amini died in custody. The Masa Amini tragedy sparked protests.
In Shia Islam, as in many other traditions, death is mourned again after 40 days, usually with an outpouring of grief. In Saqez, Amini’s Kurdish hometown, the birthplace of the nationwide riots currently raging in Iran, crowds meandered through a local cemetery and rushed to her grave.
“Death to the dictator!” protesters cried, according to video footage corresponding to known features of the city and Aichi cemetery. The women ripped off their headscarves and hijabs and waved them over their heads. Other videos showed a large procession making its way along a highway and through dusty fields toward Amini’s grave. There were reports of road closures in the area.
State media reported that 10,000 protesters marched to her grave.
Hengaw, a Kurdish human rights group, said security forces fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators. His semi-official ISNA news agency said security forces fired pellets at a crowd of demonstrators outside Saqez and pushed back demonstrators who tried to attack the governor’s office. It said local internet access was blocked due to “security considerations.”
Earlier in the day, Kurdistan’s governor Esmail Zaray Kushha said the situation was “perfectly stable”, insisting that traffic flow was normal.
State media have announced that schools and universities in northwestern Iran will be closed to curb the “spread of influenza”.
In downtown Tehran, a major section of the traditional Grand Bazaar has been closed in solidarity with the protests. The crowd applauded, “Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!” through the maze of markets.
“This year is the year of blood!” they also chanted. “(Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) will be overthrown!”
Riot police on motorcycles were dispatched. Large groups of men and women marched through the streets, setting trash cans on fire and shouting death to the dictator. Police fired riot-control rounds at demonstrators in the streets, spraying pellets upwards at journalists filming from windows and rooftops. Anti-government chants also echoed from the campus of the University of Tehran.
Amini, who was detained on suspicion of violating a strict dress code for women, remains a potent symbol of the protests that have posed one of the most serious challenges to the Islamic Republic.
Under the slogan #WomanLifeFreedom, the demonstration initially focused on women’s rights and the state-mandated hijab, or headscarf for women.However, they soon devolved into calls to expel the Shia cleric who had ruled Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The protests also inspired college students and labor unions.prisoner and ethnic minorities such as the Kurds. Along the border of Iran and Iraq.
Security forces have fired live ammunition since protests erupted Rights groups said more than 200 people were killed as tear gas was used to quell the protests.
Countless numbers have been arrested, estimated in the thousands. Iran’s judiciary said this week it would put more than 600 people on trial for their role in the protests, including 315 in Tehran, 201 in neighboring Alborz province and 105 in southwestern Khuzestan province.
Tehran prosecutor Ali Salehi told the state-run IRNA news agency that four protesters had been charged with “war on God”, which carries the death penalty in Iran.
Iranian officials blamed protests on foreign interferencewithout providing any evidence.
Last week, Iran imposed sanctions on a dozen European officials, companies and institutions, including a foreign-based Persian-language channel that widely covered the protests and accused them of “supporting terrorism”. . Sanctions include confiscation of assets in Iran, as well as entry and visa bans for staff.
German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle, whose Persian-speaking team was blacklisted, on Wednesday condemned the move as “unacceptable”.
“We expect German and European politicians to step up the pressure on the regime,” said DW Executive Director Peter Limbour.
In another development, most of what remains of a 10-story tower that collapsed earlier this year in the southwestern city of Abadan, killing at least 41 people, collapsed on Wednesday, state media reported. The state-run news agency IRNA reported that a woman in a car parked near the scene had died. Other parts of the building collapsed last month.
In Abadan, about 660 kilometers (410 miles) southwest of the capital Tehran, the deadly collapse of the Metropole building on May 23 became a lightning rod for protests. The disaster has put a spotlight on shoddy construction practices, government corruption and negligence in Iran.
A video of a huge cloud of dust soaring into the sky and the remaining tower crashing into the street has gone viral online.