TEHRAN, Iran — At least 12 people have been killed in the ongoing protests in Iran, and armed protesters have tried to take over police stations and military bases, state TV reported Monday.
The protests began as demonstrations against economic conditions in second city Mashhad on Thursday but quickly turned against the Islamic regime as a whole, with thousands marching in towns across Iran to chants of “Death to the dictator.”
Hundreds of people have been arrested.
The state TV report said 10 were killed during clashes Sunday night, without elaborating. Two demonstrators were killed during a protest in western Iran late Saturday and two more in the city of Izeh late Sunday.
“Some armed protesters tried to take over some police stations and military bases but faced serious resistance from security forces,” state TV reported.
Earlier Monday, the semi-official ILNA news agency quoted Hedayatollah Khademi, a representative for the town of Izeh, as saying two people died there Sunday night.
He said the cause of death wasn’t immediately known. Many in Izeh, some 455 kilometers (280 miles) southwest of Tehran, have hunting rifles in their homes.
Protesters in the small northwestern town of Takestan torched a school for clergy and government buildings, the ILNA news agency said, while the state broadcaster said two people had died in Dorud after crashing a stolen fire engine.
There were also reports of protests in the cities of Izeh (southwest), Kermanshah and Khorramabad (west), Shahinshahr (northwest) and Zanjan (north).
Verifying reports remained challenging due to travel restrictions and sporadic blocks on mobile internet and popular social media sites including Telegram and Instagram.
On Sunday, Iran blocked access to Instagram and the popular messaging app Telegram used by activists to organize.
President Hassan Rouhani acknowledged the public’s anger over the Islamic Republic’s flagging economy, though he and others warned that the government wouldn’t hesitate to crack down on those it considers lawbreakers.
“The people are absolutely free in expressing their criticisms and even protests,” Rouhani said in a message on the state broadcaster.
“But criticism is different to violence and destroying public property.”
He sought a conciliatory tone, saying that government bodies “should provide space for legal criticism and protest” and calling for greater transparency and a more balanced media.
US President Donald Trump said the “big protests” showed people “were getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism”.
“Looks like they will not take it any longer,” he wrote on Twitter.
In a later tweet, Trump accused Iran of “numerous violations of human rights,” and commented on the disruption to social media, saying it “has now closed down the Internet so that peaceful demonstrators cannot communicate. Not good!”
Rouhani dismissed Trump’s comments.
“This man who today in America wants to sympathize with our people has forgotten that a few months ago he called the nation of Iran terrorist. This person whose whole being is against the nation of Iran has no right to feel pity for the people of Iran.”
After initial silence, state media began showing some footage on Sunday, focusing on young men attacking banks and vehicles, an attack on a town hall in Tehran, and images of a man burning the Iranian flag.
Two hundred people were reported to have been arrested in Saturday night’s unrest in the capital.
“Those who damage public property, disrupt order and break the law must be responsible for their behavior and pay the price,” Interior Minister Abdolrahman Rahmani Fazli said on Sunday.
“The spreading of violence, fear and terror will definitely be confronted,” he added.
There have been reminders of the continued support for the regime among conservative sections of society, with pro-regime students staging sizable counter-demonstrations at the University of Tehran over the weekend.