Iran’s foreign minister said Thursday that Israel and Western intelligence agencies were trying to foment civil war in the Islamic Republic, amid a number of recent attacks blamed on separatists and religious extremists, and continued protests against the regime.
“Multiple security services, Israel and some Western politicians who have made plans for civil war, destruction and the disintegration of Iran, should know that Iran is not Libya or Sudan,” tweeted Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.
“Today, enemies have targeted the integrity of Iran and Iranian identity. The wisdom of the people has disappointed the enemy,” he said.
Iranian officials have blamed the unrest on hostile foreign actors without providing evidence. The demonstrators in the protests, initially spearheaded by women, say they are fed up after decades of repression by a clerical establishment that they view as corrupt and authoritarian.
At least 362 people have been killed and 16,033 arrested in the latest wave of protests, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group monitoring the months-long unrest.
Rights groups accuse security forces of firing live ammunition and birdshot at demonstrators, and of beating them with batons.
Amir-Abdollahian’s statement came a day after state media said gunmen opened fire in a bazaar in the southwestern Iranian city of Izeh, killing at least five people, including a young girl, and wounding civilians and security forces.
However, according to The Guardian, protesters said paramilitary Basij members “ran amok,” killing a number of people including a nine-year-old boy who was in a car with his father.
In a separate incident, gunmen shot dead two Basij members in the central city of Isfahan, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.
State TV said that groups of several dozens of protesters gathered in different parts of Izeh late Wednesday, chanting anti-government slogans and hurling rocks at police, who fired tear gas to disperse them. State-linked media also reported that someone set fire to a Shiite religious seminary.
Violence has erupted around some of the protests as security forces have clamped down on dissent.
The demonstrations were ignited by the September 16 death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was being held by the country’s morality police, and rapidly escalated into calls for the overthrow of Iran’s ruling clerics and an end to the theocracy established after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Authorities have heavily restricted media access and periodically shut down the internet, making it difficult to confirm details of unrest in different parts of the country.
The violence in Izeh took place on the second day of a three-day general strike called by the protesters.
The strike commemorates an earlier round of nationwide protests in 2019 in which hundreds of demonstrators were killed.
Meanwhile, Iran’s Revolutionary Court, which tries security cases, issued a preliminary verdict on Wednesday sentencing three protesters to death. That brings the number of death sentences to four since the latest protests began. None have yet been publicly announced as having been carried out.
Mizan, a news website linked to Iran’s judiciary, did not identify the accused but said one of them had allegedly rammed a vehicle into police, killing one and wounding others. It said another was accused of attacking security forces with a knife and setting fire to a government building. The third individual was accused of blocking a street and leading a violent demonstration. Mizan claimed the verdicts can be appealed.