Iran's Revolutionary Guards arrest dozens of protest leaders amid violent crackdown
"Approximately 100 leaders, heads and main figures of the recent unrest were identified and arrested in various parts of the country by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps," Esmaili said according to Reuters.
Iranian officials have said 1,000 protesters have been arrested since demonstrations began on Friday last week.
Officials have confirmed five deaths of four security personnel and one civilian, but Amnesty International has said 106 people have died as a result of "excessive and lethal force" used to crush the demonstrations.
Tehran's United Nations spokesman Alireza Miryousefi has slammed that toll as "speculative" and part of a "disinformation campaign waged against Iran", but statements by the country's own Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) indicate reports of violence are correct.
The IRGC earlier this week praised the Iranian armed forces for taking "timely" action against "rioters", ending the "incidents" within 24 to 72 hours.
The "arrest of the rioters' leaders has contributed significantly to calming the situation," it added in a statement on the official IRGC website Sephanews.
The official claims of an end to the protests could not be independently verified, but The New York Times reported on Thursday that hospitals across the country remained flooded with casualties, forcing doctors to cancel elective surgeries in the capital and other cities due to the influx of emergency cases.
The United States Treasury on Friday slapped sanctions on Iran's communications minister, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, in response to the protests.
The fresh sanctions came six days after Tehran switched off internet access across the country, rendering it near impossible to share information about the unrest.
"We are sanctioning Iran's Minister of Information and Communications Technology for restricting internet access, including to popular messaging applications that help tens of millions of Iranians stay connected to each other and the outside world," said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a statement.
"Iran's leaders know that a free and open internet exposes their illegitimacy, so they seek to censor internet access to quell anti-regime protests," Mnuchin said.President Donald Trump on Thursday slammed Tehran for cutting off internet access.
"Iran has become so unstable that the regime has shut down their entire Internet System so that the Great Iranian people cannot talk about the tremendous violence taking place within the country," Trump said in a tweet. "They want ZERO transparency, thinking the world will not find out the death and tragedy that the Iranian Regime is causing!"
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