Iran says 230 killed in November protests


Tehran (AFP)

A senior Iranian lawmaker said Monday that 230 people were killed and thousands injured in November protests sparked by a petrol price hike, state news agency IRNA reported.

It is the first time that an official in Iran has given overall casualty figures for the street violence.

"During these events 230 people were killed, six of whom were official agents and security forces," said Mojtaba Zolnour, head of the parliament's national security and foreign affairs committee.

"Twenty percent of them were forces keeping order and peace," he added, noting that they included "the police, security and intelligence forces, and the Basij" militia, some of which are not under government control and considered unofficial.

Those injured included about 2,000 people and 5,000 forces deployed to ensure law and order, the report added.

The demonstrations erupted on November 15 in a handful of cities before spreading to at least 100 urban centres across the Islamic republic.

Petrol pumps were torched, police stations attacked and shops looted, before security forces stepped in amid a near-total internet blackout.

Officials had repeatedly rejected death tolls given by foreign media and human rights groups as "lies" and passed responsibility of reporting on it between different state bodies.

London-based human rights group Amnesty International has put the number at 304, and a group of independent UN rights experts said in December that 400 including at least 12 children could have been killed based on unconfirmed reports.

The United States has claimed that more than 1,000 were killed in the violence.

According to Zolnour, seven percent of the 230 were "those killed in direct confrontations with security forces" and were mostly "rioters armed with semi-automatic weapons and machineguns".

He added that 26 percent "were not among the rioters and killed over unknown reasons" such as "being shot from seven metres to the heart or to the temple from three metres away".

The lawmaker insisted that the security forces were too far away from the protesters to have done this.

"A high percentage were killed by bullets that are not used" in Iranian standard-issue weapons, he said.

Of the remainder, 16 percent died while attacking military bases and police stations, and 31 percent at public places such as malls, banks and fuel stations.

Zolnour alleged that those behind the violence had aimed to use the unrest to "overthrow" the system.

Iran at the time blamed the violence that broke out during the protests on "thugs" backed by its foes the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

It has singled out exiled royalists and the People's Mujahedeen of Iran (MEK), an exiled former rebel group which it considers a "terrorist cult".