Twelve killed in protests across Afghanistan

KABUL Fri Feb 24, 2012 3:25pm EST

1 of 10. Afghan protesters move a dead man during clashes in Kabul February 24, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Ahmad Masood

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KABUL (Reuters) - Twelve people were killed on Friday in the bloodiest day yet in protests that have raged across Afghanistan over the desecration of copies of the Muslim holy book at a NATO military base with riot police and soldiers on high alert braced for more violence.

The burning of the Korans at the Bagram compound earlier this week has deepened public mistrust of NATO forces struggling to stabilize Afghanistan before foreign combat troops withdraw in 2014.

Hundreds of Afghans marched toward the palace of Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul, while on the other side of the capital protesters hoisted the white flag of the Taliban.

Chanting "Death to America!" and "Long live Islam!," protesters also threw rocks at police in Kabul, while Afghan army helicopters circled above.

Friday is a holy day and the official weekly holiday in Afghanistan and mosques in the capital drew large crowds, with police in pick-up trucks posted on nearby streets.

Armed protesters took refuge in shops in the eastern part of the city, where they killed one demonstrator, said police at the scene. In another Kabul rally, police said they were unsure who fired the shots that killed a second protester.

Seven more protesters were killed in the western province of Herat, two more in eastern Khost province and one in the relatively peaceful northern Baghlan province, health and local officials said. In Herat, around 500 men charged at the U.S. consulate.

U.S. President Barack Obama had sent a letter to Karzai apologizing for the unintentional burning of the Korans at NATO's main Bagram air base, north of Kabul, after Afghan laborers found charred copies while collecting rubbish.

Muslims consider the Koran to be the literal word of God and treat each copy with deep reverence. Desecration is considered one of the worst forms of blasphemy.

Afghanistan wants NATO to put those responsible on public trial.

In neighboring U.S. ally Pakistan, about 400 members of a hardline Islamist group staged protests. "If you burn the Koran, we will burn you," they shouted.

To Afghanistan's west, Iranian cleric Ahmad Khatami said the U.S. had purposely burned the Korans. "These apologies are fake. The world should know that America is against Islam," he said in a speech broadcast live on state radio.

"It (the Koran burning) was not a mistake. It was an intentional move, done on purpose."

Most Westerners have been confined to their heavily fortified compounds, including at the sprawling U.S. embassy complex and other diplomatic missions, as protests that have killed a total of 23 people, including two U.S. soldiers, rolled into their fourth day. The embassy, in a message on the microblogging site Twitter, urged U.S. citizens to "please be safe out there" and expanded movement restrictions to relatively peaceful northern provinces, where large demonstrations also occurred Thursday, including the attempted storming of a Norwegian military base.

The Taliban urged Afghan security forces Thursday to "turn their guns on the foreign infidel invaders" and repeatedly urged Afghans to kill, beat and capture NATO soldiers.

Germany, which has the third-largest foreign presence in the NATO-led war, pulled out several weeks early of a small base in the northern Takhar province Friday over security concerns, a defense ministry spokesman said.

(Additional reporting by Amira Mitri in TEHRAN, Imtiaz Shah in KARACHI, Sabine Siebold in BERLIN, Writing by Amie Ferris-Rotman; Editing by Michael Georgy and Ed Lane)

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Comments (106)
KrisCraig wrote:
Short answer: No.

The only thing that can defuse this is time. Besides, with Republican presidential candidates already calling President Obama a traitor for apologizing for this misconduct, we cannot say with a straight face that the American people are unanimously remorseful for this.

Even I am highly skeptical of the military’s explanation that this was just “an accident.” I mean, what business did they have burning ANY books to begin with?! If they needed to be destroyed that badly, ship them in crates back to the U.S. to be recycled!

So no, their explanation that burning books is just the standard way to make room on the library shelves does not pass the believability test.

The ghosts of Abu Ghraib still haunt the U.S., though considerably much less so now. Likewise, time too will cause this to dissipate. The problem isn’t whether or not this will “blow over.” The problem is whether or not we’ll stop needlessly creating these controversies in the first place.

Feb 23, 2012 8:00pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Steven1251 wrote:
I think it’s time to go home. Leave them to what they have been doing for the last thousand years and get out before we kill or insult any more of them; or spend another dime. We got Bin Laden, declare victory and leave. Just like Vietnam, who, after we left, became good trading partners and have normal relations with us.

Feb 23, 2012 8:02pm EST  --  Report as abuse
McBob08 wrote:
@Canpie: That is incredibly offensive; no wonder the world hates America.

Isn’t in interesting how this happens just as the American government is making plans to scale back its involvement in Afghanistan. If I didn’t know better, I’d suspect a conspiracy to aggravate the situation in Afghanistan in order to keep the war (invasion) going strong.

So I have to think, who would benefit from this? Obviously, the American and British War Profiteers; companies like Xe, Halliburton, Lockheed Martin, Aegis Defence Services, General Dynamics and many, many more. These companies are trading human lives for profit, and they aren’t going to stop until the people force the government to end its hateful and unnecessary invasion of Afghanistan and stop doing business with these companies.

Feb 23, 2012 8:44pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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