Top Sunni Cleric Says Khamenei Responsible ‘Before God’ for Deaths

 – Authorities in the Iranian city of Zahedan have sacked the police chief and the head of a police station near where dozens of people were killed four weeks ago during protests which have swept the country, state news agency IRNA said on Thursday.

The deaths in Zahedan were widely criticised, including by a top Sunni cleric who said senior officials including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei were responsible “before God”. Amnesty International said security forces killed at least 66 people in the violent crackdown on Sept. 30.

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It was the deadliest incident in the unrest which erupted after the death in custody six weeks ago of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd detained by the Islamic Republic’s morality police for flouting restrictions on women’s dress.

Zahedan, close to Iran‘s southeastern border with Pakistan and Afghanistan, is home to a Baluch minority estimated to number up to 2 million people which has faced discrimination and repression for decades, according to human rights groups.

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The Sistan-Baluchistan region around Zahedan is one of the country’s poorest and for years has been a hotbed of militancy, where Iranian security forces have been attacked by Baluch militants.

The provincial security council said in a statement carried by state media that armed dissidents had provoked last month’s clashes, leading to the deaths of innocent people, but admitted “shortcomings” by police which it said led to the dismissals.

The statement said the families of the victims would be compensated and a legal investigation had been opened that may lead to further measures against those who provoked the violence, rioters and any officials suspected of wrongdoing.

(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; editing by Jonathan Oatis)