Gunfire erupts as Iranian security forces confront water scarcity protesters

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Gunfire erupted as Iranian security forces confronted protesters on Sunday amid demonstrations over water scarcity in the country’s south.

Authorities said the violence left at least 11 people wounded, mostly police.

The protests around Khorramshahr, some 400 miles southwest of Tehran, come as residents of the predominantly Arab city near the border with Iraq complained of salty, muddy water coming out of their taps amid a years-long drought.

The unrest only compounds the wider unease felt across Iran as it faces an economic crisis sparked by US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw America from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

Protests began in Khorramshahr, Abadan and other areas of Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan province on Friday.

The demonstrations initially were peaceful, with protesters chanting in both Arabic and Farsi.

But late Saturday and into early Sunday morning protesters began throwing stones and confronting security forces in Khorramshahr, according to widely shared online videos.

State television aired images of rocks and broken glass covering pavements, as well as smashed cashpoints. Women and children fled as gunfire echoed.

Heavy machine gun fire could be heard in one video showing demonstrators dragging away a man who could  not walk.

Another video appeared to show a man carrying a Kalashnikov assault rifle on the back of a motorcycle near protesters.

State TV reported Sunday that “peace had returned” to Khorramshahr and an unspecified number of protesters had been arrested.

It said some demonstrators carried firearms during the unrest.

Iranian interior minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli told journalists Sunday there had been no deaths.

A deputy to Fazli later said the violence wounded one civilian and 10 police officers, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency.

“Such protests are directed by the propaganda of opportunists from places and people that are recognised by us as foes,” Fazli said.

“You observe how they are fuelling such incidents in the foreign media and in the cyberspace these days.”

The Iran Meteorological Organisation estimates 97% of the country faced some form of drought.

Analysts also blame government mismanagement for diverting water away from some farmers in favour of others.

The protests came after three days of demonstrations last week in Tehran, including protesters confronting police outside parliament and officers firing tear gas at the demonstrators.

The rallies led to the temporary closure of the city’s Grand Bazaar.

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