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Ahmadinejad's reelection prompts mass protests in Iran

Supporters of challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi clash with riot police and Hizbullah vigilantes.

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Thousands of Iranians took to the streets of Tehran on Saturday to protest the re-election of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, clashing with riot police over the surprise result and crying fraud.

Elderly women wove their way among cars stalled in traffic to hand out sweets in celebration. But hundreds of riot police, and later at night alongside Ansar-e Hizbullah vigilantes, sent a different message as they took control of the streets with beatings and violence.

The sounds of ambulance sirens, car horns, whistles, and shouting echoed long into the night. Protestors shouted "Death to the Dictator" and pelted police with stones.

Election officials declared Ahmadinejad the winner, claiming that he had won 62.6 percent of the vote, nearly twice the 33.75 percent given to his top challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi.

Iran's supreme religious leader Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei hailed the vote as a "divine assessment" and told losing candidates to rein in "provocative behavior." Ahmadinejad was the "chosen and respected president," the Leader said, so every Iranian "must unanimously support and help him."

But supporters of the former prime minister – who had rekindled popular interest in politics with a string of vast street rallies that attracted tens of thousands and led to an unprecedented 80 percent turnout – say they were betrayed.

"The people's vote does not matter – it is all about Ahmadinejad winning," said Majid, as a line of some 30 motorcycles with two helmeted riot policemen on the back of each roared past on their way to shut down the Mousavi campaign headquarters. "These guys are serious – they don't care about anybody."

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