29 dead as building collapses in Iran to disperse angry crowd

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Online video analyzed Saturday showed Iranian riot police firing tear gas and firing into the air to disperse an angry crowd of hundreds near the site of a building collapse in the southwestern city of Abadan. .

A report by Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency also acknowledged the unrest on Friday night over the disaster that killed at least 29 people this week, with more fearful of still being buried under the rubble of the 10-story building. It comes as Iran’s economy deteriorates amid tough U.S. sanctions over its nuclear program, fueling fears of a new round of widespread unrest in the Islamic Republic.

Meanwhile, the country faced targeted killings and other violence this week into Saturday, even as its paramilitary Revolutionary Guards apparently seized two Greek tankers over Athens, allowing the United States to seize Iranian oil in the Mediterranean.

Videos shared online showed hundreds of people gathered near the Met, whose facade was brightly lit, on Friday night. A second video showed demonstrators chanting in the streets: “Our enemies are here; they lied that it was America!” A third showed an angry crowd hearing a gunshot. The filmmakers turned and ran, shouting, “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!”

The details in the video correspond to known features of Abadan, about 660 kilometers (410 miles) southwest of the capital, Tehran. Foreign Persian-language TV channels described tear gas and other shootings.

Fars described the situation as a riot, forcing police to intervene. It was not immediately clear if anyone was injured or if police made any arrests.

Fars and human rights activists reported that in other cities, people gathered peacefully to mourn. However, angry crowds have been gathering in Abadan since Iran held a rally of 100,000 on Thursday to mark the release of a new state-backed pop song, “Hello Commander.”

On Friday, protesters in Abadan shouted: “In Tehran, there are weddings; Abadan is bleeding!”

Authorities have acknowledged that the building’s owners and corrupt government officials have allowed the Met to continue construction despite concerns about its poor workmanship. The building collapsed on Monday. Authorities arrested 13 people, including the city’s mayor, as part of an extensive investigation into the disaster.

Rescue teams pulled three more bodies from the rubble on Saturday, bringing the death toll from the collapse to 29.

The deadly collapse has raised questions about the safety of similar buildings in the country and highlighted the ongoing crisis in Iran’s construction projects. The collapse is reminiscent of the 2017 fire and collapse of Tehran’s iconic Plasco building that killed 26 people.

Meanwhile, violence has continued elsewhere in the country. Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency said gunmen wounded two police officers and a civilian Saturday in central Tehran. It said one officer was in critical condition. Authorities did not provide any reason.

Separately, a gunman shot and killed a senior police officer, Major Abbas Rah Anjam, in Iran’s volatile Sistan and Balochistan provinces, the semi-official ISNA news agency said. ISNA said the attack also hurt his wife.

Gun violence is rare in Iran, where there are strict controls over who can own guns.

Earlier this month, a senior member of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards, Colonel Hassan Sayyad Khodayi, was shot dead by an unknown gunman on a motorcycle at his home in Tehran. Iran blamed Israel for the shooting, mirroring other attacks by its intelligence services and allies.

Also on Saturday, amid regional tensions, Iranian state television broadcast a video of what it called a “top-secret” underground tunnel in the heart of the Zagros Mountains in the country’s west. It said the tunnel, located about 100 meters (330 feet) underground, was home to the Kaman-22 and Fotros drones, both capable of carrying cruise missiles.

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