Iran leader sends delegation to strife-torn southeast

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A delegation from Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei expressed sadness and promised solutions in a visit to a southeastern province where dozens have been killed in unrest, official media said.

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The violence in Zahedan, the capital of Sistan-Baluchistan province which borders Pakistan, erupted on September 30, and authorities say six members of the security forces were among the dead.

The casualties came against the backdrop of nationwide unrest that followed the September 16 death of Mahsa Amini, 22, after her arrest by morality police in Tehran for allegedly violating Iran’s strict dress code for women.

Some local figures said the protests in Zahedan were triggered by anger over the reported rape of a teenage girl by a police officer.

Overseas-based activists accused security forces of firing on demonstrators.

Zahedan is one of the few Sunni-majority cities in predominantly Shia Iran.

“We came to share the sadness felt by the supreme leader concerning the incidents which happened” in the province, said Mohammad-Javad Haj Ali Akbari, spokesman for the delegation which arrived Saturday.

He said they were also there to “report on measures decided (by Khamenei) to resolve these problems,” the state news agency IRNA quoted him as saying on Sunday.

Akbari also referred to a “special plan” from Khamenei to benefit the province’s people, but IRNA gave no further details on such measures.

He also met the imam of Zahedan’s Makki mosque, Iran’s largest Sunni house of worship, and said he wanted to see relatives of those killed or wounded in the incidents “to console them.”

In late October the Sistan-Baluchistan security council said it had concluded an investigation that found “negligence” by officers and the deaths of “innocent” civilians during the unrest.

The council announced the dismissal of Zahedan’s police chief as well as the head of a police station.

Poverty-stricken Sistan-Baluchistan had previously seen clashes with drug smuggling gangs as well as rebels from the Baluchi minority and extremist groups.

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