Gulf Today

Police officer shot dead by ‘rioters’ in Iran

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TEHRAN: A police officer was killed by “rioters” in southweste­rn Iran, state media said on Wednesday, following days of protests against water shortages in which at least one demonstrat­or has died.

The officer was shot dead in the port city of Mahshahr in Khuzestan province, the official IRNA news agency said. Khuzestan is Iran’s main oil-producing region and one of its wealthiest, but has been hit by a persistent drought that has led to protests over water shortages in several towns and cities since last week.

“During Tuesday night riots in Taleqani ( a neighbourh­ood of Mahshahr) officers were shot at from a rootop,” IRNA quoted acting county governor Fereydoun Bandari as saying.

“One officer was martyred and another injured in the leg.”

Bandari did not specifical­ly link the shooting to the past week’s protests over water shortages.

“The people of Khuzestan are staging nightly protests, protests that have been festering for years,” the reformist newspaper Arman-e Melli said on Tuesday.

The “brave people” of Khuzestan, a province that was on the front line of the 1980-88 Iran-iraq war, just “want water, that is all,” it said.

Another reformist paper, Etemad, said around midnight on Tuesday that internet access was disrupted in the provincial capital, Ahvaz, and completely cut in the town of Shadegan.

On Saturday, state media reported a protester had been shot dead in Shadegan by “opportunis­ts and rioters.”

State TV confirmed protests took place Tuesday night in Izeh and Susangerd counties over “the water situation.”

Calm gatherings in streets turned into “riots” and clashes with the police by “opportunis­ts,” it said.

Over the past few days, Farsi-language media based abroad have broadcast videos that they said showed protests in Ahvaz, Izeh, Susangerd, Shadegan and Hamidiyeh as well as Mahshahr.

They said security forces had forcibly dispersed protesters, but domestic media have played down the reports.

The videos show hundreds of people marching on the streets and chanting slogans against authoritie­s, while surrounded by anti-riot police.

In some, what sounded like gunfire could be heard.

The videos shared on social media could not be independen­tly verified.

Khuzestan governor Qasem Soleimani-dashtaki on Tuesday denied reports of further deaths among protesters.

“We have strongly emphasised that the security forces do not violently confront the people, let alone open fire,” the ISNA news agency quoted him as saying.

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