(CNSNews.com) – Among messages submitted to the State Department by Iranians during the protests of recent weeks is a video clip showing regime forces using truck-mounted machine guns to mow down protesters in cold blood, killing as many as 100 people, the U.S. Special Envoy for Iran said on Thursday.
Brian Hook told reporters at the State Department that more than 1,000 Iranians may have been killed by the regime since the latest wave of protests began in mid-November.
That estimate, which Hook attributed to “a collection of crowdsourcing intelligence, intelligence reports from groups that have been publishing the death toll,” is in line with figures by the exiled National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which said Wednesday that according to reports it has received, the number of protest-related deaths had risen to 1,029.
Its growing list of the names and locations of those reported to have been killed now stands at 320.
Hook said that since the State Department last month invited Iranians – amid a near-total Internet shutdown in Iran – to submit information and imagery of regime abuses perpetrated in response to the protests, it had received more than 32,000 messages via a secure Telegram channel.
Among them was video footage from Mahshahr, a city in southwest Iran near the Persian Gulf and the border with Iraq, where demonstrators on November 16 blocked a road, he said.
“Without warning, the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] opened fire on the protesters, killing several people,” Hook said.
“Many of the protesters fled to nearby marshlands to escape. The IRGC tracked them down and surrounded them with machine guns mounted on trucks.”
“They then sprayed the protesters with bullets.”
“Between the rounds of machine gun fire, the screams of the victims can be heard,” Hook continued. “In this one incident alone, the regime murdered as many as a hundred Iranians and possibly more. When it was over, the regime loaded the bodies into trucks. We do not yet know where these bodies went, but we are learning more and more about how the Iranian regime treats its own people.”
Putting the alleged death toll into perspective, Hook recalled that during the eight-month-long “Green Movement” protests in 2009, sparked by the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, 72 people were reported to have been killed.
“And we are now at the many hundreds, perhaps over a thousand,” he said.
“We had protests in a hundred cities, and we saw how the regime responded. The supreme leader referred to his own people as thugs, and this was a brutal crackdown.”
Hook said at least a dozen children were known to have been killed. He cited reports of authorities refusing to hand over the bodies of victims for burial until families paid for the cost bullets used by security forces, or until families undertook not to hold public funerals.
‘Righteous struggle for freedom’
The Trump administration last April designated the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization – the first time ever that a foreign government entity has been blacklisted in that manner.
NCRI leader Maryam Rajavi this week called on the U.N. Security Council “to declare the massacre of the Iranian people by the regime as a crime against humanity, and to bring the heads of this regime and those responsible for this horrific crime to justice.”
The United States holds the Security Council’s rotating presidency for December, and on Thursday, President Trump held a luncheon at the White House for the 15 council ambassadors.
He spoke at some length about the situation in Iran, saying the Security Council “must take action” to confront dangers facing the world, including “the behavior of the Iranian regime, which has killed hundreds and hundreds of people in a very short period of time.”
“It’s a horrible situation,” the president said. “It’s something that is going to be a big scandal throughout the world very soon. They’re killing a lot of people. And they’re arresting thousands of their own citizens in a brutal crackdown in recent weeks, because they’re protesting.”
Trump said the U.S. “will always stand with the Iranian people in their righteous struggle for freedom.”
He accused the regime of wasting its resources “on weapons and on other things,” and not treating its people properly.
He also expressed frustration about those who he said “don’t want to” help to repair a situation which he said “could be fixed very quickly and very easily.”
“It could be fixed very quickly, but we have people that just don’t want to do that. For some reason, they just don’t want to do that. They don’t get it.”
He did not elaborate, but administration officials have criticized European Union countries for pursuing a mechanism designed to sidestep U.S. sanctions against the regime and keep the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal afloat following Trump’s withdrawal.
The scheme known as INSTEX (“Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges”) aims to facilitate trade between European and Iranian companies while avoiding the U.S. banking system, and thus sanctions.
Nine of the E.U.’s 28 member-states have now signed up to the sanctions-evading trade channel.
Four of them (France, Germany, Britain, and Belgium) were represented by their U.N. ambassadors at Thursday’s White House lunch.