Iran protests turn deadly as protesters and police killed

People gather to protest in Tehran, Iran.
People gather to protest in Tehran, Iran. Photo credit: Getty

A protester has shot and killed a policeman during demonstrations in Iran, the first reported fatality among security forces struggling to contain unrest challenging the clerical leadership.

Ten people were confirmed dead across the country on Monday, as a wave of anti-government protests that began last week showed no sign of letting up, forcing President Hassan Rowhani and his government to address demonstrators' demands.

The protests put pressure on the clerical leaders in power since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, as well as Rouhani, who made a televised call for calm on Sunday, saying Iranians had the right to criticise but must not cause unrest.

The killing of the police officer happened when a demonstrator opened fire with a hunting rifle in the central city of Najafabad, police spokesman Saeed Montazer al-Mahdi was quoted as saying by state TV.

Three policemen were also wounded. It was not clear when the incident took place.

State TV said armed demonstrators on Sunday had tried to seize police and military bases but were stopped by "strong resistance from security forces".

It gave no further details and there was no independent confirmation.

Hundreds of people have been arrested, according to officials and social media.

Online video showed police in the capital Tehran firing water cannon to disperse demonstrators, in footage said to have been filmed on Sunday.

Some of the anger was directed at Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, breaking a taboo surrounding the man who has been supreme leader of Iran since 1989.

The Fars news agency reported "scattered groups" of protesters in Tehran on Monday and said a ringleader had been arrested.

Early on New Year's Day, US President Donald Trump tweeted: "The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years. They are hungry for food & for freedom. Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted. TIME FOR CHANGE!"

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the "brave Iranians" taking to streets to protest at a regime that "wastes tens of billions of dollars spreading hate".

"I wish the Iranian people success in their noble quest for freedom," he said in a video posted on his Facebook page.

Reuters