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    Wednesday, 21 February 2018

    300 Sufis held after clash with Iranian police

    Overnight clashes between followers of a Sufi Islam leader and Iranian police killed five members of the security forces and injured 30, Iranian media reported on Tuesday, the latest tension between the mystical order and authorities. Over 300 were arrested. (Partly reported in Tuesday issue).
    Supporters of Sufi leader Nourali Tabandeh have been holding sporadic sit-ins near his home in Tehran, worried that the 90-year-old former deputy justice minister after Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution could be detained by police. That fear stems from the recent January protests in Iran in which police detained Sufis.
    Tabandeh has had close relationships with liberal activists.
    Earlier on Monday, Sufis had rallied in front of a police station demanding the release of a detainee. They later rallied in front of Tabandeh’s home, where police started to try to disperse them. Previous rallies saw Sufi followers carrying clubs and knives, which they used to clash with police.The semi-official Fars news agency said a Sufi follower rammed a bus into a group of police officers, killing three of them before being arrested late Monday.
    The official IRNA news agency on Tuesday quoted police spokesman Gen. Saeed Montazeralmahdi as saying two members of the Basij forces also were killed in a stabbing and another car-ramming attack, which also injured 30. Police arrested over 300 Sufi followers, including the drivers of both vehicles, he said. Tabandeh himself remains free.
    Police have blocked off streets to the site of the clash and deployed a number of officers to the area.
    Later on Tuesday, state TV showed images of several detainees, injured policemen and property damage. Neighbourhood residents complained about damage to their property and implored authorities to provide security and punish offenders.
    A spokesman for the Sufis, Farhad Nouri, told the semi-official ISNA news agency that neither police nor Sufis initiated the violence and that some people are trying to “blame Sufis and take advantage of the riot.” He didn’t elaborate but said many Sufis are “worried” about the incident because their faith eschews violence.
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