Iran State Radio Reports Seven Killed in Tehran Clashes

June 16, 2009 - 3:45 AM
The seven were killed in shooting that erupted after protesters in western Tehran "tried to attack a military location," the radio said, providing no details.

Supporters of reformist presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi flash victory signs during a rally in Azadi Street in Tehran on Monday, June 15, 2009. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

Tehran, Iran (AP) - Iran's state radio reported Tuesday that clashes in the Iranian capital the previous night left seven people dead after an "unauthorized gathering" following a mass rally over alleged election fraud.
 
The seven were killed in shooting that erupted after protesters in western Tehran "tried to attack a military location," the radio said, providing no details.
 
It was the first official confirmation of Monday's fatalities in Tehran's Azadi Square, where witnesses had seen at least one person shot dead and several others seriously wounded by gunfire from a compound for volunteer militia linked to Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard.
 
The deaths also were the first known in Tehran since rioting and protests broke out after last week's disputed elections -- raising the prospect of possibility of further defiance and anger from crowds claiming the vote was rigged in favor of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Another protest march is planned later Tuesday.
 
The shootings occurred after hundreds of thousands of people supporting opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi defied an official ban on the march and gathered to protest fraud in last week's election.
 
At Azidi Square, standing on a roof, gunmen opened fire on a group of protesters who had tried to storm the militia's compound on the edge of the square. Angry men showed their bloody palms after cradling the dead and wounded who had been part of a crowd that stretched more than five miles (nearly 10 kilometers).
 
The march also marked Mousavi's first public appearance since shortly after the election and said he was willing to "pay any price" in his demands to overturn the election results.
 
Ahmadinejad, meanwhile, arrived in Russia on Tuesday to attend a regional security summit, after having postponed the trip for one day.
 
A Web site run by Iran's former reformist vice president, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, said he had been arrested by security officers, but provided no further details. Abtahi's Web site, popular among the youth, has reported extensively on the alleged vote fraud after Friday's election.
 
In Washington, President Barack Obama said Monday he was "deeply troubled by the violence I've been seeing on TV."
 
Although he said he had no way of knowing whether the election was valid, Obama praised protesters and Iranian youth who questioned the results. "The world is watching and is inspired by their participation, regardless of what the ultimate outcome of the election was," he said.
 
The huge rally Monday -- and smaller protests around the country -- display the resolve of Mousavi's backers and have pushed Iran's Islamic establishment into attempts to cool the tensions after days of unrest.
 
The death toll reported Tuesday was the first in Tehran since the postelection turmoil gripped Iran and could be a further rallying point in a culture that venerates martyrs and often marks their death with memorials. One of Mousavi's Web sites said a student protester was killed early Monday in clashes with plainclothes hard-liners in Shiraz in southern Iran but there was no independent confirmation of the report.
 
Britain and Germany joined the calls of alarm over the rising confrontations in Iran. In Paris, the Foreign Ministry summoned the Iranian ambassador to discuss the allegations of vote-tampering and the violence.
 
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country's most powerful figure, has ordering an examination into the fraud allegations, although he had initially welcomed Ahmadinejad's victory.
 
The 12-member Guardian Council, made up of clerics and experts in Islamic law, was asked to study the claims. The council, which is closely allied to Khamenei, must certify ballot results, but nullifying an election would be an unprecedented step.
 
Claims of voting irregularities went to the council after Ahmadinejad's upset victory in 2005, but there was no official word on the outcome of the inquiry, and the vote stood.