PUL-E-ALAM, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Protestors clashed with Afghan security forces on Saturday, as thousands of Afghans demonstrated for a second day, despite a U.S. pastor suspending plans to burn copies of the Koran, officials said.
The renewed protests in the war-torn country came after obscure Florida Pastor Terry Jones called off plans to burn copies of the Koran to mark the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States.
The plans triggered outrage in Afghanistan and across the Muslim world with President Barack Obama warning the action could deeply hurt the United States abroad and endanger the lives of U.S. troops.
Four demonstrators were seriously wounded when Afghan security forces opened fire as thousands of protestors tried to storm several government buildings in Pul-e-Alam, the capital of Logar province, south of Kabul, a provincial official said.
“The security forces did not want any trouble but were forced to open fire when the protestors tried to force their way into the buildings,” said Din Mohammad Darwish, the provincial governor’s spokesman.
Demonstrators also hurled stones at the buildings, including the department for women’s affairs, causing some damage. Pul-e-Alam is located some 70km (40 miles) south of the capital, Kabul.
Elsewhere in northeastern Badakhshan province, where a day earlier one protestor was shot dead, several thousand people took to the streets in three separate districts, provincial police chief Aqa Noor Kentuz said.
“Demonstrators have come in their thousands to protest the Koran burning, though so far it is peaceful. Our police force is there to prevent any violence,” he told Reuters.
A spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said he was aware of two demonstrations in Badakhshan. He said no ISAF forces were involved and that the protests were not near any military bases.
In a statement posted on their website, alemarah-iea.com/, the Taliban called on all Afghans to join the hardline Islamists in their fight against the Western forces and warned of more attacks if the Koran burning went ahead.
“This stupid pastor who wants to avenge the September 11 attacks by burning the Koran will not only cause hundreds of bloody attacks in the United States but also throughout the world,” the statement said.
On Friday, a crowd estimated at 10,000, protested on the streets of Faizabad, the capital of Badakhshan, after special prayers for Eid al-Fitr, the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
One protester was shot dead when a smaller group attacked a German-run NATO base in Faizabad, hurling stones at the outpost. Protesters also gathered in the capital, Kabul, and in four other provinces, mainly in the west of the country.
Similar protests over perceived desecration of Muslim symbols have led to dozens of deaths in Afghanistan in recent years, including after a Danish newspaper published a cartoon depicting the Prophet Mohammad in 2005.
Additional reporting by Ahmad Elham in KUNDUZ and Hamid Shalizi and Jonathon Burch in KABUL; Writing by Tim Gaynor and Jonathon Burch; Editing by Jonathan Thatcher