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Protesters seek to remove leadership after plane downed

TEHRAN: Protests erupted across Iran for a second day, increasing pressure on the Islamic Republic’s leadership after it admitted its military shot down a Ukrainian airliner by accident, despite days of denials that Iranian forces were to blame. “They are lying that our enemy is America, our enemy is right here,” one group of protesters chanted outside a university in Tehran, according to video posted on Twitter. Other posts showed demonstrators outside a second university and a group of protesters marching to Tehran’s Azadi (Freedom) Square, as well as protests in other cities. Some state-affiliated media carried reports of the university protests, which followed demonstrations on Saturday sparked by Iran’s admission that its military mistakenly shot down the plane on Wednesday, killing all 176 aboard, at a time when Tehran feared U.S. air strikes. The Ukraine International Airlines plane was downed minutes after taking off from Tehran bound for Kiev on Wednesday. Many on board were Iranians with dual citizenship, while 57 were holders of Canadian passports. Residents of the capital told media that police were out in force on Sunday. Some protesters in Azadi Square first called on officers there to join them, then turned their anger on the authorities, chanting anti-government slogans including “Down with the dictator” – a reference to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to social media posts and Iranian media reports. The semi-official ILNA news agency said police moved to disperse the protesters, who it said numbered as many as 3,000. Videos posted online showed demonstrators running from police who used batons and teargas. Public anger boiled up following days of denials by the military that it was to blame for the crash, issued even as Canada and the United States said it appeared that Iranian air defenses had shot down the airliner, probably in error. “Apologise and resign,” Iran’s moderate Etemad daily wrote in a banner headline on Sunday, saying the “people’s demand” was that those responsible for mishandling the crisis quit.–Agencies

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