Afghans stage more protests over Koran shooting

TANGI WAGH JAN, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Hundreds of Afghans chanted anti-U.S. slogans on Monday in protest against the shooting of the Koran by an American soldier in Iraq.

Sporadic protests have erupted across Afghanistan in the last week as news spreads of a copy of the Koran being found riddled with bullets at a shooting range in Baghdad on May 11.

A Lithuanian soldier and at least two Afghans were killed last week when protesters tried to storm a military base in the west of the country.

In the latest protests, police arrested dozens of demonstrators and prevented them blocking a highway in Logar province south of the capital, Kabul. Some demonstrators waved the white flag of the Taliban.

“Death to America. Death to Bush, his allies and the United Nations. We want them out,” said one young protester as others chanted Allahu Akbar, or God is Great.

An effigy of U.S. President George W. Bush and an American flag were dragged along the road.

The shooting of the Koran was the latest in moves to insult Islam, a speaker said, recalling the printing of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in the Western press and the desecration of the Koran by a U.S. soldier in Guantanomo Bay prison.

The U.S. president apologised to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki last week and promised to prosecute the U.S. soldier accused of desecrating the Koran. There have no demonstrations in Iraq over the incident.

Protests over perceived insults to Islam have often turned violent in Afghanistan, where a deeply conservative faith is mingled with resentment at the presence of foreign troops.

Protests over the shooting of the Koran also took place in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif on Monday.

“They always add fuel to our anger. We strongly denounce it and ask the Afghan government to cut any relations with these people,” said Mohammad Nasim, a protester.

Protesters destroyed an effigy of Bush.

Some 12,000 people have been killed in Afghanistan in the last two years since the Taliban relaunched their insurgency to overthrow the pro-Western Afghan government and drive out the more than 60,000 foreign troops now based in the country.

Additional reporting by Tahir Qairy