Quran protests spread,7 Afghans killed

Afghan President Hamid Karzai appealed for calm after clashes in several cities between Afghan security forces and protesters furious over the burning of Qurans at a US military base left seven people dead

Written by Associated Press | Kabul | Published: February 23, 2012 1:23:58 am

Afghan President Hamid Karzai appealed for calm Wednesday after clashes in several cities between Afghan security forces and protesters furious over the burning of Qurans at a US military base left seven people dead.

The anger over the Quran burning has sparked two days of protests across Afghanistan and tapped into anti-foreign sentiment fueled by a popular perception that US and Western troops disrespect Afghan culture and Islam. The demonstrations prompted the US to lock down its embassy and bar its staff from traveling.

The Afghan Interior Ministry said in a statement that seven people were killed,four in clashes in the eastern province of Parwan,one at a US base outside Kabul,and one each in Jalalabad and Logar provinces. It said an investigation was under way to determine what happened.

“The people have the right to protest peacefully,but I appeal to my countrymen not to resort to violence,” Karzai said. Karzai said he shared the Afghan people’s pain at hearing of the Quran desecration,but asked them to “wait for the end of the investigation.”

The demonstration in Kabul drew thousands of protesters who chanted “Death to America,” hurled rocks and set tires alight outside a complex that is home to foreign contractors,police and some coalition military forces. Nearby,angry demonstrators set a fuel truck ablaze on a main highway running east out of the city,sending black smoke billowing into the air.

The US apologised Tuesday for burning the copies of the Quran,which had been pulled from the shelves of the Parwan Detention Facility,adjoining Bagram Air Field,because they contained extremist messages or inscriptions.

As Wednesday’s rally in Kabul turned violent,city police chief Mohammad Ayub Salangi arrived at the scene with hundreds of reinforcements who broke up the protest.

After the Quran burning was made public Tuesday,more than 2,000 Afghans protested outside the Bagram air base near the capital.

In Parwan,provincial police chief Akram Bigzad said about 2,000 protesters were demonstrating outside a district headquarters when some of them opened fire with weapons.

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