Motorcycle gunmen in Iran have killed nine people, including two children, in mysterious attacks as protests over the death of Mahsa Amini intensified on the anniversary of a bloody crackdown in 2019.
A protester was killed in Bukan on Thursday, the Oslo-based Hengaw rights group said, after reporting at least 10 dead in street fighting in western Iran on Wednesday.
The motorcycle attacks came as protests against the September 16 death of Mahsa Amini in custody following her arrest for allegedly violating Iran’s strict dress code for women.
The unrest has been fueled by anger over the brutal enforcement of the mandatory hijab law, but has turned into a broad movement against the theocracy that has ruled Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
In one of the worst acts of violence since the protests began, attackers on motorcycles shot dead seven people, including a woman and two children, ages nine and 13, in the western city of Izeh on Wednesday night, state media said.
“A terrorist group took advantage of a gathering of demonstrators in front of the central market of the town to open fire on people and security officers,” the official IRNA news agency reported.
Eight people were injured, including three police officers and two members of the Basij paramilitary force linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, IRNA added.
It is the second attack that authorities have blamed on “terrorists” since nationwide protests broke out over Amini’s death, after at least 13 people were killed at a shrine in the southern city of Shiraz on October 26.
– Nine-year-old boy killed –
But a relative of the slain nine-year-old boy, identified as Kian Pirfalak, accused Iranian security forces of carrying out the attack, in a tweet shared by Radio Farda, a US-funded Persian station in Prague.
“He was on his way home with his father and was shot at by the corrupt regime of the Islamic Republic. Their car was attacked from all four sides,” the unidentified family member says in an audio recording.
In a separate attack hours later in Isfahan, Iran’s third-largest city, two assailants on a motorcycle fired automatic weapons at Basij members, killing two and wounding two others, the Fars news agency said.
Ultra-conservative President Ebrahim Raisi ordered authorities to “act immediately to identify the perpetrators of the attack and hand them over to the justice system for punishment,” Fars reported.
Elsewhere, security forces were accused of killing at least 10 people within a 24-hour period during protests in the cities of Bukan, Kamyaran, Sanandaj and Amini’s hometown of Saqez, Hengaw said late Wednesday.
The rights group, which monitors violations in Kurdish-populated areas, said strikes were observed in those four cities on Thursday, as well as other cities including Dehgolan, Ilam, Mahabad and Ravanasar.
Iran Human Rights, another Oslo-based organization, said in an updated toll on Wednesday that security forces have killed at least 342 people, including 43 children and 26 women, since Amini’s death.
The human rights group said at least 15,000 people have been arrested, a figure Iranian authorities deny.
– ‘Sham Processes’ –
Iran has issued five death sentences since Sunday in connection with the protests that have shocked the leaders of the Islamic republic.
Amnesty International on Wednesday condemned Iran’s “horrifying use of the death penalty to brutally crush popular uprising”.
The London-based rights group said authorities were seeking the death penalty for at least 21 people in “mock trials designed to intimidate the protest movement”.
“The Iranian authorities must immediately quash all death sentences, refrain from imposing the death penalty and drop all charges against those arrested in connection with their peaceful participation in protests,” Amnesty’s Diana Eltahawy said.
“Two months after the popular uprising and three years after the November 2019 protests, the crisis of impunity prevailing in Iran allows the Iranian authorities not only to continue to commit mass killings, but also to discourage the use of the death penalty as tool to escalate. of political repression.”
Iran accuses Western countries that host Persian-language media, including Britain, of fomenting the unrest.
Britain’s internal intelligence agency MI5 said on Wednesday that Iran sought to kidnap or kill UK-based individuals it considers “enemies of the regime”.