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Iran's Forces Battle Protests Nationwide

Ahmadinejad waves amid media in Tehran

Feb. 20: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad waves to the media as he leaves the parliament in Tehran. (AP2011)

BEIRUT—For a second time in a week, Iran's opposition drew tens of thousands of supporters to the streets across the nation on Sunday calling for the end to the Islamic Republic's rule.

In response, the government unleashed what witnesses said was an extraordinary number of security forces to violently battle the crowds. Witnesses said mobs of anti-riot police and plainclothes Basij militia lined the streets and on several occasions fired directly into the crowd and beat protesters with steel batons. In one neighborhood, the Basij took over a commercial building and dropped tear gas canisters from the roof onto the protesters, witnesses said.

Basij militia dressed in black shot and killed two young men in Tehran's Vanak and Vali Asr squares, according to witness accounts posted on opposition websites. The victims haven't been identified. Dozens have been injured and arrested, according to witnesses.

"This was the most violent protest we've had by far, and people were also really angry and fearless," said one witness from Tehran, adding that the public seemed resolved to stay on the street.

Opposition called for a mass demonstration on Sunday to commemorate the seventh day of mourning for two slain students, Sanah Jaleh, 26 years old, and Mohamad Mokhtari, 22, who were shot dead on Monday when security forces attacked a crowd.

The opposition movement is banking on momentum created by a wave of antigovernment uprisings across the Middle East, as well as public uproar at the killing of the two students and the government's attempt to exploit their deaths by claiming falsely they supported the regime.

"Freedom is near, join us in the streets," said one posting on the Facebook group created for Sunday's demonstrations.

"Step outside your door, every street is Freedom Square," said another.

In Tehran, protesters targeted government buildings such as the national broadcast company Seda va Sima—seen as a mouthpiece for the regime— chanting "God is great" and "Death to the dictator," witnesses reported on opposition websites.

Continue reading at The Wall Street Journal