UPDATES WITH CASUALTIES
By Syed Zafar Mehdi
TEHRAN, Iran (AA) – Heavy clashes erupted in the city of Zahedan in Iran's southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan province on Friday after a group of armed protesters stormed a police station, leading to a firefight, according to local reports.
The incident took place following Friday prayers outside police station 16 on Razi Street in west Zahedan, a few blocks away from Makki Mosque, according to reports.
At least 19 people have been killed and 20 others wounded in Friday's violence, according to the provincial governor, Hossein Modarriskhiyabani.
He dubbed the attackers as "terrorists and separatists," who he said intended to "take over" the police station after damaging its walls and throwing incendiary material.
Videos circulating on social media showed gory scenes of wounded people being taken away amid plumes of smoke and the sound of intermittent gunfire in the background.
State media reported that "unidentified gunmen" opened fire at the police station, leading to a firefight. Some reports said the assailants were unarmed, but pelted stones.
Later, angry protesters set ablaze several banks and police cars across the city, according to eye witnesses.
Tensions have been running high in recent days in the Sunni-majority province that borders Pakistan over the death of a young Iranian woman, Mahsa Amini, in police custody.
However, media reports also point to another case in the province that has inflamed the situation – the alleged sexual harassment of a 15-year-old girl by a police officer in the neighboring port city of Chabahar.
The incident, which was reported earlier this month, has drawn widespread anger and outrage in the border province with people calling for justice and accountability.
Following the events of Friday, a top Sunni cleric in Zahedan, Maulvi Abdul Hamid, appealed for peace and unity, and urged authorities to investigate what he called "bitter and unfortunate" events, as reported by local media.
Meanwhile, the intelligence chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Sistan-Baluchestan, Syed Ali Mousavi, was shot by gunmen outside the Makki Mosque in Zahedan, state media said.
He was rushed to a local hospital after being struck with one bullet in the chest but succumbed to his injuries hours later.