US says received 20,000 messages from Iran protests

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks alongside a photograph of demonstrations in Iran

The United States said Tuesday it has received nearly 20,000 messages from Iran about protests including photos and videos after appealing to demonstrators to defy restrictions on the internet.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stood at the podium in front of images of blazing streets, four days after he asked Iranians to send in information so the United States can "expose and sanction the abuses."

"We've received to date nearly 20.000 messages, videos, pictures, notes of the regime's abuses through Telegram messaging services," Pompeo told reporters, referring to the encrypted app.

"To the courageous people of Iran who refuse to stay silent about 40 years of abuses by the ruling regime, I say simply this: the United States hears you, we support you and will continue to stand with you in your struggle for a brighter future for your people and for your great nation," Pompeo said.

The protests, triggered by a sharp rise in gas prices, came after a year and a half of biting sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump that aim to contain Iran's regional role.

In response to Iran's effort to shut down the internet, the United States has imposed sanctions on the communications minister and pressed Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to suspend the accounts of Iranian government leaders.

Amnesty International said Monday that at least 143 demonstrators have been killed since November 15 as the regime tries to repress protests violently.