Death Toll Rises to 10 as Clashes in Iran Intensify

by Robert F. Worth and Nazila Fathi
The New York Times
December 27, 2009

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Iranian police opened fire into crowds of protesters in Tehran on Sunday, killing at least 10 people and setting off a day of chaotic street battles that seemed poised to deepen the country’s civil unrest, as demonstrators in cities across Iran flooded the streets and fiercely fought back against security forces, witnesses and opposition Web sites said.


The protests, on the holiday commemorating the death of Hussein, Shiite Islam’s holiest martyr, were the bloodiest and among the largest since the uprisings that followed Iran’s disputed presidential election last June, witnesses said. Hundreds of wounded people were reported wounded, and the Tehran police said they had made 300 arrests.

The Iranian authorities’ decision to fire into crowds on the sacred Ashura holiday stunned many Iranians, and some said the violence appeared to be galvanizing more traditional religious people who have not been part of the protests so far. The Shah’s forces never fired on protesters during Ashura, wary of violating the day’s sanctity.

In Tehran, thick crowds marched down a central avenue in mid-morning, defying official warnings of a harsh crackdown on protests as they chanted “death to Khamenei!” referring to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

They refused to retreat even as police fired tear gas, charged them with batons, and fired warning shots. The police then opened fire directly into the crowd, opposition Web sites said, citing witnesses. At least five people were killed in Tehran, four in the northwestern city of Tabriz, and one in Shiraz in the south, the Web sites reported. Photographs of several victims circulated widely.

One of the dead was Ali Moussavi, the 35 year-old nephew of the opposition leader Mir-Hussein Moussavi, the Parleman News Web site reported. He was shot near the heart at midday in Enghelab Square in Tehran, the report said.

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