Tehran: Iran has arrested eight people accused of links to the CIA and gathering information to send abroad during deadly street violence that erupted after a fuel price hike triggered demonstrations. A near-total internet blackout was imposed by the Islamic republic on November 16, the day after it made the shock announcement that petrol prices were immediately going up by as much as 200 percent.
Reports of deaths and arrests emerged as security forces were deployed to rein in demonstrations which turned violent in some areas, with dozens of banks, petrol pumps and police stations torched. Officials in Iran have confirmed five people were killed and so far announced about 500 arrests, including of some 180 “ringleaders”.
The latest to have been detained in Iran were eight people “linked to the CIA during recent riots”, State news agency said late Wednesday. “Some elements who tried to collect information about the recent riots and send them out of the country… were identified and arrested,” it quoted the director-general of the intelligence ministry’s counter-espionage department as saying. Six of them were alleged to have been “attending the riots and carrying out orders,” news agency reported, without naming the official.
Two others accused of trying to collect information and transfer it abroad were arrested before they could leave the country, the news agency said. They had all been “trained in different countries on how to collect information as citizen-journalists,” it added. Iran’s arch-foe, the United States, said on Tuesday it had received thousands of messages from the Islamic republic about the protests, including photos and videos, after issuing an appeal for people to defy the internet restrictions.
Meanwhile, Angry protesters burned the Iranian consulate in the holy Shiite city of Najaf, while the security forces imposed a curfew in the city, a security source said.
Dozens of demonstrators rallied outside the Iranian consulate in the evening before they broke into the building and set fire in it, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
The Iranian consulate employees fled the building before the attack of the protesters, the source said.
The authorities in Najaf, some 160 km south of Baghdad, declared curfew in the city starting from Wednesday night until further notice, the source added.
Later on, the governor of Najaf province declared in a statement the suspension of work in all the government institutions, except for security, health and other public service departments, because most of the main roads in the province have been blocked by the anti-government demonstrations.–Agencies