DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Gunmen opened fire in a bazaar in the southwestern Iranian city of Izeh on Wednesday, killing at least five people, including a young girl, and wounding civilians and security forces, state TV reported.
It was not immediately clear what motivated the attack or if it was linked to the nationwide protests that have convulsed Iran over the past two months. Another 10 people, including security forces, were wounded in the shooting, according to state TV.
Valiollah Hayati, deputy governor of the Khuzestan province, where the city is located, said a young girl and a woman were among those killed.
State TV said that groups of several dozens of protesters had gathered in different parts of Izeh late Wednesday, chanting anti-government slogans and hurling rocks at the police, who fired tear gas to disperse them.
Violent clashes have erupted around some of the protests as security forces have clamped down on dissent. Iran has also seen a number of recent attacks blamed on separatists and Islamic extremists, including a shooting at a major Shiite shrine last month that killed over a dozen people.
The demonstrations were ignited by the death of 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 tokk place on the second day of a three-day general strike called by the protestors. The strike commemorates an earlier round of nationwide protests in 2019 in which hundreds of protesters were killed.
Iranian officials have blamed the unrest on hostile foreign actors without providing evidence. The protesters say they are fed up after decades of repression by a clerical establishment that they see as corrupt and authoritarian.
Activists say at least 344 people have been killed and 15,820 arrested in the latest wave of protests. Rights groups accuse security forces of firing live ammunition and bird shot at demonstrators, and of beating them with batons.
Iran’s Revolutionary Court, which tries security cases, issued a preliminary verdict sentencing three protesters to death in the capital, Tehran, earlier on Wednesday, state media reported.
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 said the verdicts can be appealed.