Explosions and heavy security amid celebrations of ancient fire festival
Los Angeles Times / Alexandra Sandels & Ramin Mostaghim

Firecrackers and homemade explosives were heard throughout the Iranian capital on Tuesday night as Iranians took to the streets in celebration of Chaharshanbeh Souri, an ancient Zoroastrian fire festival held ahead of the Persian New Year, amid a heavy police and security presence.

Opposition supporters had vowed to turn the event this year into a protest against the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And security forces took no chances.

On the streets of Tehran, armed security forces were out in full force, especially in main squares where protests had taken place earlier. Droves of helmeted "special guards" on motorcycles rumbled past stunned pedestrians. Plainclothes security officials oversaw checkpoints, pulling over cars filled with young people. Police officers on sidewalks could be seen ordering kids to open up their rucksacks.

Although no major clashes were reported between celebrators and security troops, skirmishes between helmeted and uniformed security forces and revelers broke out on Gisha Street, in the capital's central west.

Tehran's courts are staying open extra late Tuesday night with the ongoing festivities, the conservative Iranian news agency Mehr reported. There have been reports of arrests.

recommended by Shifteh Ansari