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Iran protests: Ayatollah blames 'enemies' for anti-government protests; nine more killed overnight

Iranian students run for cover from tear gas on Saturday at the University of Tehran during a demonstration driven by anger over economic problems, in the capital Tehran. The death toll has risen to at least 21 since anti-government protests began last week. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, blamed the "enemies of Iran" for his nation's current unrest that left another nine people dead overnight, bringing the death toll to at least 21 since anti-government protests began last week, according to Reuters.

What did Khamenei say?

“In recent days, enemies of Iran used different tools, including cash, weapons, politics, and intelligence apparatus to create troubles for the Islamic Republic,” Khamenei said in his first reaction since the protests began six days ago, according to Al Jazeera. 

"The dignity, security, and progress of the Iranian nation is owed to the self-sacrifice of the martyrs. What prevents enemies from exerting their atrocities is the spirit of courage, sacrifice, and faith within the nation," he said in a statement. "I have something to say on these events, and I will speak to the dear people when the time is right."

While Khamenei did not mention any enemies by name, the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani blamed the U.S., Britain, and Saudi Arabia for the riots in Iran.

“Saudis will receive Iran’s unexpected response, and they know how serious it can be,” Shamkhani said in an interview with Beirut-based Al Mayadeen TV, Al Jazeera reported.

Iranian Interior Minister Hossein Zolfaghari said Tuesday, according to UPI, that security forces "decisively countered the saboteurs."

"In most parts of the country, the situation is now normal, and the unrest that took place in certain areas will soon end with the people's cooperation and the efforts of security forces," Zolfaghari said.

What happened overnight?

Six people died during an assault Monday night on a police station in Isfahan's central town, Qahdarijan, when they attacked a police station, Al Jazeera reported. Rioters were believed to be attempting to steal weapons. Three others, including an 11-year-old boy, were killed in Khomeinishahr.

And for the first time since the demonstrations unfolded six days ago, according to UPI, a member of Iran's Revolutionary Guard died during a clash with protesters.

Have there been any arrests?

Security forces have arrested more than 450 protesters in Tehran, who, according to the head of Tehran's Revolutionary Court, could potentially face the death penalty if the charges include "Moharebeh," or waging war against God, Politico reported.

President Hassan Rouhani warned that the government would not hesitate to crack down on protesters. He said the rallies so far have been illegal under Iranian law since the government didn't grant prior permission.

It's not clear how many arrests have been made in other parts of the country.

What led to the civil unrest?

The massive demonstrations began in Mashhad over government corruption, a weak economy, a jump in food prices, and the treatment of women in the Islamic Republic.

In recent days, President Donald Trump tweeted support for the Iranian people who are standing up against the leaders of Iran.

“The people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime. All of the money that President [Barack] Obama so foolishly gave them went into terrorism and into their 'pockets.' The people have little food, big inflation and no human rights. The U.S. is watching!” Trump tweeted early Tuesday.

What else?

The Iranian government is limiting access to the internet and social media apps including Telegram and Instagram, which protesters used to organize demonstrations, according to UPI.

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