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At least 1 dead in Iran protests over gas prices



At least one person was killed in the central Iran city of Sirjan Saturday amid violent protests following the theocratic government's announcement that it would raise gas prices by 50 percent to fund dividends for the country's poor.

Protesters flock to the streets in more than a dozen cities after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced the price increase at midnight Thursday. Protesters abandoned cars in traffic and blocked streets in major cities, even when the season's first snowfall persisted.

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Civilians crushed with police, which authorities used tear gas to stop angry crowds trying to set fire to an oil depot. Online videos circulating on Iranian social media appeared to show a fire at the depot when sirens gnawed in the background. Another showed a large crowd shouting: “Rouhani, shame on you! Leave the country in peace! "

  A road is blocked by protesters in Tehran on Saturday. (Majid Khahi / ISNA via AP)

A road is blocked by protesters in Tehran on Saturday. (Majid Khahi / ISNA via AP)

Mohammad Mahmoudabadi, an official of the Interior Ministry in Sirjan, later told state television that police and protesters exchanged shots and injured several. He said many protesters were peaceful, but later men armed with weapons and knives infiltrated the demonstration.

"They insisted on reaching the oil depot and creating crises," Mahmoudabadi said.

The semi-official ISNA news agency later quoted Mahmoudabadi as saying that the violence killed a person.

  Smoke rises during a protest in the city of Isfahan on Saturday. (AP Photo)

Smoke rises during a protest in the city of Isfahan on Saturday. (AP photo)

The protest only adds to the concern the Iranian government faces as it struggles to overcome major US sanctions following Washington's withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal last year. Since then, tensions between the two nations have only intensified, especially in the wake of reports that Iran has slowly violated its provisions to pressure other nations to provide more incentives.

Iran has the world's fourth largest crude oil reserves and cheapest gas prices as well. Recent price increases saw gas up to at least 15,000 rials per liter of gas – 50 percent up from the day before, which corresponds to 13 cents per liter, or about 50 cents per gallon. A gallon of regular gasoline in the US costs $ 2.60 by comparison.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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