Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has accused outside forces hostile to Iran of exacerbating anti-government protests that have claimed the lives of at least 21 people since Thursday.
“In the recent days’ incidents, enemies of Iran utilized various means — including money, weapons, politics and intelligence apparatuses — to create problems for the Islamic system,” Khameini said in comments posted to his official website, according to today's AP.
Iranian state television reported that overnight clashes between security forces and protesters killed another nine people, adding to the twelve already reported by various international news outlets.
The protests erupted in Mashad, Iran’s second most populous city located in the northeast, over Iran’s failing economy and an increase in food prices. They have spread to towns across the country.
In addition to economic issues, many protesters blame the government for focusing on foreign affairs to the detriment of resolving domestic matters.
While Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has acknowledged public dissatisfaction over the stagnant economy, he and others have warned that the government would crack down on those it deems lawbreakers.
Hundreds of protesters have been arrested over the past few days.
In Tehran alone, 450 protesters have been arrested in the last three days, this according to the semi-official ILNA news agency.