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As night falls, Tehran still ablaze

A level of rioting unseen since the 1979 revolution continued into the night; rioting also reported in southern cities of Zahedan and Shiraz.

TEHRAN, Iran— The Iranian capital was still in the grip of rioting as darkness fell Saturday night. Vali Asr Avenue, the city's most historic thoroughfare which traverses the city, has not seen anything like it since the 1979 Iranian Revolution

Authorities discontinued cellphone communications, blocked several websites and moved swiftly to squash pockets of resistance.

Rioters continued battling riot police on motorcycles and bassiji militias, as residents watching the violence from balconies and rooftops shouted "death to the dictator."

It was an eerie reminder of the revolutionary days from whose ashes the Islamic Republic was born.

In 1978-79, Iranians across the country took to their roofs every night to shout the name of the man who later became the Islamic Republic's founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Friday's disputed election has prompted similar scenes with thousands of demonstrators battling police and religious paramilitaries who swear allegiance to incumbent Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Supporters of the opposition candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, say that the questionable vote has damaged their already weak faith in Iran's ability to carry out free and fair elections.

"The fact that the Supreme Leader waded in is of concern because it shows there's a bigger fight going on at top of system and we're only seeing the broad contours of this at the moment," said an analyst, who insisted on anonymity. "I'm not sure this street thing will carry on for much longer except if a feasible leadership emerged to lead it but even so I wouldn't know what they could fight for. The key word right now is unpredictability which makes it all the more dangerous."

In central Tehran, fires raged in banks and witnesses reported gunfire. Private businesses were left untouched by the demonstrators, who focused on government-owned banks such as Saderat, Bank-e Melli and Bank-e Sepah.

In exclusive North Tehran, there were running street battles. Thousands of cars were backed up on the multilane Modaress highway as protesters struggled in hand-to-hand combat with a police unit atop a burning footbridge. Screams and the crush of stone against plastic shields and metal surfaces echoed over the running engines and the hubbub of motorists commenting on the extraordinary sight.

Car headlights illuminated a surreal scene of hundreds of bearded paramilitaries, police and T-shirt wearing protesters running back and forth across a rocky expanse of ground over which several fires blazed.

Further up, plump vigilantes vaulted over road dividers and waved metal clubs at motorists parked by the side of the highway shouting at them to move on.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/middle-east/090613/night-falls-tehran-still-ablaze