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Fierce rioting hits Kurdish town in Iran

Demonstrators accuse government official of attempted rape that led to the death of young hotel maid
Image purportedly from the scene shows a hotel in central Mahabad ablaze (Twitter/@zaidbenjamin)

Iranian police sought to quell riots that broke out in a majority Kurdish city on Thursday, after locals accused a government official of causing the death of a young hotel maid.

Farinaz Khosrawani, 25, who worked in the only four-star hotel in the small city of Mahabad, fell to her death from the fourth floor of the hotel on Monday.

Protesters suspect foul play in Khosrawani’s death, alleging that a government official had attempted to rape her, leading her to flee.

Despite the arrest of one suspect in the case, crowds of angry demonstrators gathered in front of Taha Hotel on Thursday, demanding answers in what they say is a suspicious death - the call for demonstrations came from a group of women’s rights activists in the city.

Amateur video purportedly from the scene shows the hotel ablaze - protesters apparently gained access and threw items from inside to the crowds below.

Images posted to Twitter suggest that the crowds also set fire to rubbish bins and surrounded the local government intelligence headquarters.

Iranian Special Forces were deployed in large numbers in an effort to quell the violence, with tear gas used to disperse protesters.

One person has been killed in the clashes, according to London-based Arabic language paper Elaph, while up to 50 people have been injured.

Security forces later withdrew from the area, with Kurdish news site Rudaw reporting that the order came from the office of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Solidarity demonstrations are planned for Friday afternoon in Sulaymaniyah, a city in Iraqi Kurdistan some 140 kilometres south of Mahabad.

Iran’s state news agency has yet to report on the unrest.

Mahabad became the capital in 1945 of a short-lived republic, the Republic of Mahabad, which established an autonomous Kurdish region with legally mandated equality between peasants and notables.

The republic lasted less than a year before being stormed by Iranian government troops, who burned Kurdish language books and executed its leader, Qazi Mohammed, on charges of treason.