Iran official says over 7,000 people arrested in anti-government protests, hundreds of buildings torched
The comment by Hossein Naghavi Hosseini, who sits on parliament's national security and foreign policy committee, came as Iran's interior minister claimed that demonstrators wanted to take over state television.
Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli offered no evidence for his claim during an interview aired late on Tuesday night on Iranian state television. Protests weren't reported around state TV's headquarters in northern Tehran.
The minister also said approximately seven hundred banks and 140 government buildings had been set on fire during recent protests in which he claimed 200,000 took part, Reuters reported quoting state news agency IRNA.
Iran has yet to offer any definitive statistics for the unrest, which began November 15 when officials sharply raised government-set gasoline prices.
Amnesty International says it believes violence in the protests and a security force crackdown killed at least 143 people.
Meanwhile, the United States said Tuesday it has received nearly 20,000 messages from Iranian citizens about protests including photos and videos after appealing to demonstrators to defy restrictions on the internet.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stood at the podium in front of images of blazing streets, four days after he asked Iranians to send in information so the United States can "expose and sanction the abuses".
"We've received to date nearly 20.000 messages, videos, pictures, notes of the regime's abuses through Telegram messaging services," Pompeo told reporters, referring to the encrypted app.
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"To the courageous people of Iran who refuse to stay silent about 40 years of abuses by the ruling regime, I say simply this: the United States hears you, we support you and will continue to stand with you in your struggle for a brighter future for your people and for your great nation," Pompeo said.
The protests, triggered by a sharp rise in gas prices, came after a year and a half of biting sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump that aim to contain Iran's regional role.
In response to Iran's effort to shut down the internet, the United States has imposed sanctions on the communications minister and pressed Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to suspend the accounts of Iranian government leaders.