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Iran denies shooting at protesters amid fury over downing of plane

Anger mounts after military admits shooting down Ukrainian plane; Trump tells Iran not to kill protesters

DUBAI: Iran's police said yesterday officers had not fired at protesters demonstrating over Teheran's admission that it shot down a passenger plane, as video on social media recorded gunshots and pools of blood.

US President Donald Trump, tweeting on Sunday during a second day of Iranian demonstrations, told the authorities "don't kill your protesters".

The demonstrations in Teheran are the latest development in one of the most destabilising escalations between the US and Iran since the Iranian revolution of 1979.

Teheran has acknowledged shooting down the Ukrainian jetliner in error, killing 176 people, hours after it had fired at US bases to retaliate for the killing of Iran's most powerful military leader in a drone strike ordered by Mr Trump.

Iranian public anger, rumbling for days as the country's leaders repeatedly denied they were to blame for Wednesday's plane crash, erupted into protests on Saturday when the military admitted its mistake. Demonstrators turned out again on Sunday.

Videos on social media, posted on Sunday, recorded gunshots in the vicinity of protests in Teheran's Azadi Square.

Footage showed blood on the ground, wounded being carried and people who seemed to be security staff running with rifles. Other posts showed riot police hitting protesters with batons as people nearby shouted "Don't beat them!" and "Death to the dictator", directing their fury at Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

"They are lying that our enemy is America, our enemy is right here," another group outside a Teheran university chanted.

Reuters could not independently authenticate the footage, but state-affiliated media reported the weekend protests in Teheran and other cities, without giving such details.

"At protests, police absolutely did not shoot because the capital's police officers have been given orders to show restraint," Mr Hossein Rahimi, head of the Teheran police, said in a statement.

Iranian authorities killed hundreds of protesters last November in what appears to have been the bloodiest crackdown on anti-government unrest since the 1979 revolution. In Iraq and Lebanon, governments that include Iran-backed armed groups have also faced months of hostile mass demonstrations.

Mr Trump wrote on Twitter on Sunday that National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien had "suggested today that sanctions & protests have Iran 'choked off', will force them to negotiate".

"Actually, I couldn't care less if they negotiate. Will be totally up to them but, no nuclear weapons and 'don't kill your protesters'", he wrote, repeating his earlier tweets. - REUTERS

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