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Iran's supreme leader blames enemies for spread of unrest

Iran's supreme leader  blames enemies for spread of unrest


AFP
Tehran
Iran's supreme leader blamed the country's"enemies" on Tuesday for days of unrest that have seen 21 people killed and hundreds arrested in the biggest test for the Islamic regime in years.
In a speech carried on state television, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei broke his silence on the protests for the first time since they erupted last Thursday.
"The enemies have united and are using all their means, money, weapons, policies and security services to create problems for the Islamic regime," the supreme leader said.
"The enemy is always looking for an opportunity and any crevice to infiltrate and strike the Iranian nation."
A fifth night of unrest Monday to Tuesday saw six protesters killed during an attack on a police station in Qahderijan in the central province of Isfahan, state TV said.
At least three other towns near the cultural hub of Isfahan also saw violence overnight, causing the deaths of a young member of the Revolutionary Guards, a policeman and a bystander.
The estimated death toll is now 21 since protests began in second city Mashhad and quickly spread to become the biggest challenge to the Islamic regime since mass demonstrations in 2009.
As violence has grown, authorities have stepped up arrests, with at least 450 people detained in Tehran since Saturday and 100 more around Isfahan on Monday, officials told local media.
US President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly criticised Tehran since the latest protests began, praised the demonstrators for acting against the"brutal and corrupt" regime and said Iranians had"little food, big inflation and no human rights".
Iran's foreign ministry fired back that the US leader was"wasting his time sending useless and insulting tweets" and would be better off focusing on"homeless and hungry people" in his own country.
The unrest in Iran appears leaderless and focused on provincial towns and cities, with only small and sporadic protests in Tehran amid a heavy police presence.
Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, described the unrest as a"proxy war against the Iranian people" and said online accounts in the United States, Britain and Saudi Arabia are fomenting protests.
Many on the streets of Tehran agreed with his assessment.
"When there is a protest, you can be sure other countries will take advantage of it and interfere," Mehdi Rahmani, a 30-year-old architectural engineer, told AFP.

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