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Iran: Government Official Reports Several Deaths In Riots

Tehran, 17 August 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Mehdi Taheri, the Isfahan Governor General Office's director-general for political-security affairs, said that eight people, including two policemen, were killed and some 150 injured during 16 August riots in the central Iranian province, the Iranian Students News Agency reported. The original protest was against the amalgamation of two towns, Vardasht and Dehaqan. "But the demonstration turned into a riot when a number of agents provocateurs entered the scene," Taheri said. "A number of the town's youngsters also joined in the riots for the sake of entertainment," he added.

Tehran radio reported earlier in the day that houses and vehicles were damaged by fire, and shop windows were broken. Another official in the governorate, a Mr. Shafii, told state radio on 17 August that the amalgamation plan has been put on hold.

Such plans by the central government frequently lead to provincial riots because they affect the amount of funding and services that are provided to a locale.