Protests erupt again in Iran after admission of plane strike

13Jan 2020
Dubai
The Guardian
Protests erupt again in Iran after admission of plane strike

PROTESTERS piled pressure on Iran’s leadership on Sunday with demands for top authorities to quit after the Iranian military admitted it had mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian airliner at a time when it had feared U.S. strikes.

“They are lying that our enemy is America, our enemy is right here,” dozens of protesters outside a university in Tehran chanted, according to video clips posted on Twitter. Scores of dmonstrators were also shown gathered in other cities.

The social media posts could not be verified by Reuters. But state-affiliated media had reported protests on Saturday shortly after the Iranian military apologized for mistakenly bringing down the Ukrainian plane on Wednesday, killing all 176 aboard.

Tehran residents told Reuters police were out in force in the capital on Sunday, as public anger boiled up following days of denials by the military that it was to blame, even as Canada and the United States said a missile had brought the plane down.

Riot police fired teargas at thousands of protesters in the capital on Saturday, where many had chanted “Death to the dictator”, directing their anger at the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“Apologize and resign,” Iran’s moderate Etemad daily wrote in a banner headline on Sunday, saying the “people’s demand” was for those responsible for mishandling the plane crisis to quit.

The latest upsurge in anger adds to challenges facing the authorities, which launched a bloody crackdown in November to quell protests. The leadership is also struggling to keep the crippled economy afloat under rigorous U.S. sanctions.

The Ukraine International Airlines plane was shot down minutes after taking off from Tehran on Wednesday, when Iranian forces were on alert for U.S. reprisals following tit-for-tat strikes. Many of those on board were Iranians with dual citizenship, while 57 were holders of Canadian passports.

Iran’s president said it was a “disastrous mistake” and apologized. But a top Revolutionary Guards commander added to public fury when he said he had told the authorities on the same day as the crash that an Iranian missile had struck the plane.

The Guards’ top commander, Hossein Salami, said “we are more upset than anyone over the incident”, state media reported.

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