Nov. 17 (UPI) — Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei described fuel demonstrators as “thugs” spurred on by foreign influence as protests entered a third day on Sunday.
In an address on state television Sunday, Khamenei acknowledged that “some lost their lives and some places were destroyed” while condemning the behavior of demonstrators and implying they had been influenced by counterrevolutionaries and foreign influencers.
“Setting a bank on fie is not an act done by the people. This is what thugs do,” he said.
About 1,000 demonstrators have been arrested in protests throughout the nation as some have set fire to more than 100 banks and 50 shops on fire amid otherwise largely peaceful protests that have seen demonstrators blocking traffic on highways by abandoning their vehicles.
Saudi-owned al-Arabiya TV reported that nine protesters were killed Saturday after the protests launched on Friday in response to the state-run National Iranian Oil Products Distribution Company hiking fuel prices in an attempt to generate revenue to make up for reimposed international sanctions on oil exports by the United States.
Provincial police chief Ali Akbar Javidan said a police major was injured while defending his station from rioters in Kermanshah on Saturday and died of his injuries a day later.
Internet blockage observatory NetBlocks confirmed that Internet access had been limited in Iran amid the unrest.
“Iran is now in the midst of a near-total national Internet shutdown,” said NetBlocks. “Realtime network data show connectivity at 7 percent of ordinary levels after 12 hours of progressive network disconnections as public protests continue.”
Outages were reported beginning Friday night into Saturday as the protests began to escalate.
“The ongoing disruption is the most sever recorded in Iran since President Rouhani came to power and the most severe disconnection tracked by NetBlocks in any country in terms of its technical complexity and breadth,” NetBlocks said.