Iranian officials said on Saturday that “US agents” were among armed protesters in the country, praising the Revolutionary Guards for helping police quell violent unrest in Kermanshah province this week.
Rights group Amnesty International said at least 30 people were killed in the western province, making it the worst-hit by days of protests over gasoline prices rises in which more than 100 people were killed nationwide.
However, Iran rejected the death toll figures as “speculative,” Reuters reported.
The unrest appears to be the worst violence at least since Iran stamped out a “Green Revolution” in 2009, when dozens of protesters were killed over several months.
“All the forces of the Revolutionary Guards, the (paramilitary) Basij, the Intelligence Ministry, police, and the army took part actively in controlling the situation,” Parviz Tavassolizadeh, the head of the judiciary in Kermanshah, was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars news agency.
“Tavassolizadeh said the rioters were armed,” Fars reported. “They confronted agents ... and burned public property.”
Bahman Reyhani, the Revolutionary Guards commander in Kermanshah, said “the rioters belonged to anti-revolutionary (exiled opposition) groups and America’s intelligence services,” the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.
Reyhani did not name the groups.
Officials have previously blamed “thugs” linked to exiles and foreign "foes" for stirring up the unrest, which led to the detention of about 1,000 demonstrators.
The Guards said calm had returned across Iran on Thursday.
According to Reuters, protests began in several areas on Nov. 15 after the government announced gasoline price hikes of at least 50% and imposed rationing, spreading to 100 towns and cities as demonstrators demanded senior officials step down.