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Protests in Afghanistan over Quran burning

At least 12 Afghans have died in violent demonstrations against the burning across the country so far [Reuters]

The fourth straight day of protests over the burning of Qurans at a NATO base in Afghanistan have led to the death of nine Afghans.

One protester was shot dead in the capital.

Earlier in the day, another six protesters were also killed in the western city of Herat, where protesters tried to storm the US consulate. Another two died in the Pol-e-Khomri area of northern Baghlan province.

Friday is the start of the Afghan weekend, and large crowds were expected to gather at major mosques throughout the country.

Hundreds of demonstrators marched towards the palace of Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, chanting “Death to America!”, prompting security forces to fire into the air in an attempt to disperse them.

At least three civilians and two policemen were injured in Friday’s riots, Sediq Sediqqi, the spokesman for the Afghan interior ministry, said.

“We have demos in five locations in Kabul,” Mohammad Zahir, a senior police official, told AFP.

Peaceful demonstrations have been reported in several locations across the country, including Ghazni, Nangarhar, Paktia, Kunar, Bamiyan and Khost.

“Although peaceful demonstrations are the right of people, we strongly urge our countrymen to fully avoid turning them into violent ones,” said Sediqqi earlier in the day.


“Police are fully prepared to respond to situations,” he told Reuters.

Security has been beefed up around major mosques, and police in armed pick-up trucks are guarding streets and buildings around such locations.

US President Barack Obama has sent a letter to Hamid Karzai, his Afghan counterpart, apologising for the unintentional burning of the Qurans at the Bagram air base. Afghan labourers found charred copies of the Muslim holy book while collecting rubbish at the base.

At least 12 Afghans have died during the violent protests that that discovery sparked.

Two US soldiers were also killed on Thursday when an “individual wearing the Afghan army uniform” opened fire on them at a military base in Khogyani, in eastern Nangarhar province.

Earlier the Taliban had called on Afghans to “turn their guns on the foreign infidel invaders”

The Afghan government says that it wants those responsible for the burning to be tried publically.

On Friday, US General John Allen, NATO’s top military commander, called for restraint and patience from Afghans, saying that NATO and Afghan leaders were working together to insure that the incident was not repeated.

Desecration of the Quran, considered to be the literal word of God by Muslims, is considered to be blasphemy.

Appeal for calm

An Afghan government delegation investigating the burning described the incident as “shameful”, but issued an overnight appeal for calm from the protesters.

“In view of the particular security situation in the country, we call on all our Muslim citizens of Afghanistan to exercise self-restraint and extra vigilance in dealing with the issue,” the delegation said in a statement.

In central Kabul, elite riot police in protective jackets and helmets secured intersections after complaints that security forces had not protected citizens adequately during the protests.

The US embassy in Kabul has been on a heightened state of alert over the last two days, and movement restrictions for US citizens have been expanded to the relatively peaceful northern provinces, where large demonstrations took place on Thursday. At one such demonstration, protesters attempted to storm a Norwegian military base.

US citizens have been advised to “avoid any unnecessary movement” by the embassy.

Demonstrations in the last three days have drawn thousands of angry protesters to the streets, chanting “Death to America!” and smashing shops and windows.

A large protest has been planned for Friday in Jalalabad, where violent demonstrations have been taking place since the start of unrest over the burnings.


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