Protest in Iran
Protest in IranReuters

Amnesty International on Monday released updated figures on the death toll in the recent wave of protests in Iran, saying at least 208 people are believed to have been killed during the crackdown on the protests.

"The number of people believed to have been killed during demonstrations in Iran that broke out on 15 November has risen to at least 208, based on credible reports received by the organization," said the rights group, according to AFP, adding that the actual death toll was likely higher.

The new toll ups the number of deaths according to Amnesty by almost 50, with the London-based group saying dozens were recorded in Shahriar city in Tehran province, "one of the cities with the highest death tolls".

Philip Luther, Amnesty's research and advocacy head for the Middle East, called the number of deaths "evidence that Iran’s security forces went on a horrific killing spree", and called on the international community to ensure those responsible are held accountable.

"The deaths have resulted almost entirely from the use of firearms," Amnesty has said.

The organization added that, according to collected information, "families of victims have been threatened and warned not to speak to the media, or to hold funeral ceremonies for their loved ones.”

"Some families are also being forced to make extortionate payments to have the bodies of their loved ones returned to them," it added.

The unrest erupted on November 15, hours after it was announced that the price of gas would rise to 15,000 rials per liter (12 US cents) from 10,000 for the first 60 liters, and to 30,000 rials for any extra fuel bought after that each month.

The protests were quickly quashed by authorities who also imposed a week-long near-total internet blackout.

Iran blamed the unrest on "thugs" backed by its foreign enemies, including the US, Israel and the People's Mujahedeen of Iran, an exiled armed opposition group it considers a "terrorist" cult.

On Sunday, The New York Timespublished a report on the recent unrest in Iran. The report, which was based on witness accounts and videos, said security forces responded to the protests by opening fire on unarmed protesters, largely unemployed or low-income young men between the ages of 19 and 26.

In the southwest city of Mahshahr alone, witnesses and medical personnel said, Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps members surrounded, shot and killed 40 to 100 demonstrators — mostly unarmed young men — in a marsh where they had sought refuge.