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FACTDROP: Several reported killed in second day of Afghan protests over Koran burning


Several reported killed in second day of Afghan protests over Koran burning

Πηγή: Washington Post
By Kevin Sieff and Sayed Salahuddin
Feb 22 2012

KABUL — A second day of violent protests over the burning of Korans at a NATO base spread across Afghanistan’s capital Tuesday, as demonstrators directed their anger at Western embassies and military installations.

Dozens were injured and at least one person was killed when protesters took to main thoroughfares, throwing stones, burning tires and attempting to storm a fortified compound in central Kabul where hundreds of American contractors live, said Kargar Noorughli, a spokesman for the Afghan public health ministry.

Security officials tried to quell the scattered protests — in some cases by firing on demonstrators — but by early afternoon the unrest showed no sign of dissipating.

Several demonstrators were killed during a clash with police in Parwan province, where Bagram is located, said Shah Wali, the province’s deputy governor.

Protests were also held in Jalalabad, a typically safe city east of Kabul, and outside of the Bagram air base, the largest NATO military base in Afghanistan, where the religious texts were inadvertently sent to an incinerator late Monday night, according to U.S. military officials.

In Jalalabad, hundreds of university students gathered to burn an effigy of U.S. President Barack Obama, one witness said.

Fearing an escalation of violence, officials advised non-Afghans to take security precautions, lest they become targets. Last spring, a case of Koran-burning in Florida provoked an attack on a United Nations compound in northern Afghanistan, leaving seven foreigners and five Afghans dead.

“The embassy is on lockdown; all travel suspended. Please, everyone, be safe out there,” the U.S. Embassy posted on its official Twitter account Wednesday morning.

On Tuesday, Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, apologized for the incident and promised that all NATO forces in Afghanistan would complete training in the proper handling of religious materials by March 3.

“When we learned of these actions, we immediately intervened and stopped them,” Allen said in a statement. “We are taking steps to ensure this does not ever happen again. I assure you . . . I promise you . . . this was NOT intentional in any way.”

At a meeting with U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter on Wednesday, President Hamid Karzai used the incident to bolster his claim that the U.S.-run military prison at Bagram, called the Parwan detention center, should be handed over to Afghans.

“The sooner you do the transfer of the prison, the less you will have problems and unfortunate incidents,” Karzai said.

A senior U.S. military official said Tuesday that the Korans were removed from the prison library because they had radical or inflammatory messages scrawled in them.

Last month, Karzai demanded that responsibility for the detention center be handed over to Afghanistan by the end of January. He has since extended that deadline until March 9. But U.S. officials continue to say that Afghan institutions are woefully unprepared to detain or try suspected terrorists.

Both Karzai and the Afghan parliament strongly denounced the Koran burnings. Karzai tasked a team composed of religious scholars to begin an investigation.

Nazeefa Zaki, a lawmaker representing Kabul, said parliament issued“a resolution strongly condemning this act and demanded punishment of the culprits.” Several lawmakers urged Afghans and the police to wage holy war against Americans, she said, echoing a sentiment commonly expressed during the ongoing demonstrations.

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