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    Gunfire, blasts in western Iran amid protests

    DUBAI (AP) – The sound of apparent gunshots and explosions echoed early yesterday through the streets of a western Iranian city, one of the hot spots of protests over the death of a 22-year-old woman. At least one man reportedly was killed by security forces in a village nearby, activists said.

    The incidents come as demonstrations rage on in cities, towns and villages across Iran over the September 16 death of Mahsa Amini in the custody of the country’s morality police in Tehran.

    Iran’s government insisted Amini was not mistreated, but her family said her body showed bruises and other signs of beating. Subsequent videos have shown security forces beating and shoving female protesters, including women who have torn off their mandatory headscarf, or hijab.

    From Tehran and elsewhere, online videos have emerged despite authorities disrupting the Internet.

    People gather next to a burning motorcycle in the capital Tehran. PHOTO: AFP

    Videos showed some women marching through the streets without headscarves, while others confronted authorities and lit fires in the street as the protests continue into a fourth week. The demonstrations represent one of the biggest challenges to Iran’s theocracy since the 2009 Green Movement protests.

    The violence early yesterday occurred in Sanandaj, the capital of Iran’s Kurdistan province, as well as in the village of Salas Babajani near the border with Iraq, according to a Kurdish group called the Hengaw Organization for Human Rights.

    Amini was Kurdish and her death has been particularly felt in Iran’s Kurdish region, where demonstrations began on September 17 at her funeral there.

    Hengaw posted footage it described as smoke rising in one neighbourhood in Sanandaj, with what sounded like rapid rifle fire echoing through the night sky. The shouts of people could be heard.

    There was no immediate word if people had been hurt in the violence.

    Hengaw later posted a video online of what appeared to be collected shell casings from rifles and shotguns, as well as spent tear gas canisters.

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