January 9, 2010 in Nation/World

Iranian opposition leader unharmed by armed attack

Nasser Karimi Associated Press
 

Karroubi
(Full-size photo)

TEHRAN, Iran – Pro-government demonstrators opened fire on the car of one of Iran’s opposition leaders and shattered his windows, but he escaped unharmed from the rare armed attack on a top reformist, his Web site reported on Friday.

Hard-liners called last week for the execution of opposition leaders, raising tensions that could spark a cycle of political violence beyond even the government’s control.

Mahdi Karroubi blamed authorities after shots were fired at his car late Thursday from a crowd of about 500 government supporters surrounded by police in the town of Qazvin, some 90 miles west of Tehran.

At the time of the shooting, Karroubi was leaving a house he was staying in while visiting a friend in the town, and government supporters were rallying outside the building. Karroubi’s bodyguards, who were with him at the time of the incident, did not return fire. They were also unharmed.

“God knows why a hand which should defend people and the country opens fire on the people,” Karroubi said. The shots shattered the car windows, reported Sahamnews Web site.

Karroubi ran in June’s disputed presidential election that the opposition says Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won by fraud. Unrest began immediately following the government announcement declaring Ahmadinejad the victor, with mass street protests followed by a ferocious government crackdown. The opposition says more than 80 protesters have been killed in the crackdown, but the government puts the number of confirmed dead at less than 40.

In late December, protests gained momentum again and clashes between security forces and opposition supporters killed at least eight people – the worst violence since the height of the unrest in the summer.

The shooting against Karroubi, however, was unusual.

The attack raised concerns that the political turmoil rocking Iran could be spiraling out of the government’s control.

None of Iran’s official or semiofficial news outlets reported on the shooting on Karroubi.

Since the bloodshed last month, death threats against opposition leaders have increased, with pro-government demonstrations last week calling for the execution of Karroubi and the top opposition leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi.

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