Trump warns Iran against 'massacre' as Tehran students protest jetliner shootdown
US president tweets in Farsi to leverage accidental downing of Ukraine passenger flight
Washington: US president Donald Trump said Saturday the United States was monitoring Iranian demonstrations closely, warning against any new "massacre" as protests broke out after Tehran admitted to shooting down a passenger plane.
Iran said earlier it unintentionally downed a Ukrainian jetliner outside Tehran, killing all 176 people aboard, in an abrupt about-turn after initially saying that it had crashed due to mechanical failure. The firing came shortly after Iran launched missiles at bases in Iraq housing American forces.
President Hassan Rouhani said a military probe into the tragedy had found that "missiles fired due to human error" brought down the Boeing 737, calling it an "unforgivable mistake."
Trump told Iranians -- in tweets in both English and Farsi -- that he stands by them and is monitoring the demonstrations.
"To the brave, long-suffering people of Iran: I've stood with you since the beginning of my Presidency, and my Administration will continue to stand with you," he tweeted.
"There can not be another massacre of peaceful protesters, nor an internet shutdown. The world is watching," he added, apparently referring to an Iranian crackdown on street protests that broke out in November.
"We are following your protests closely, and are inspired by your courage," he said.
The new demonstrations follow an Iranian crackdown on street protests that broke out in November. Amnesty International has said it left more than 300 people dead. Internet access was reportedly cut off in multiple Iranian provinces ahead of memorials planned a month after the protests.
On Saturday evening, police dispersed students who had converged on Amir Kabir University in Tehran to pay tribute to the victims, after some among the hundreds gathered shouted "destructive" slogans, Fars news agency said.
State television reported that students shouted "anti-regime" chants, while the news agency Fars reported that posters of Soleimani had been torn down.