Tuesday 20 February 2018

Nine die in Afghan Koran-burning violence

Ben Farmer

AN APOLOGY by Barack Obama over the accidental burning of Korans in an American airbase failed to prevent a fourth day of violent protest in Afghanistan with at least nine killed.

Thousands took to the streets after Friday prayers in towns and cities across the country, shouting anti-Western slogans and threatening violence against international and government targets.

In the worst of the day’s violence six protestors were killed and 65 wounded when a mob attempted to storm the American consulate in the Western city of Herat.

Mohiuddin, spokesman for the provincial governor, said the protests had been initially peaceful, but at 3pm shots had been fired by protestors and a police car pick-up truck had been fired.

He said: “They started trying to attack the American consulate. A police car was destroyed and there were many casualties.”

In Kabul hundreds marched on the palace of Hamid Karzai before they were dispersed by shots fired over their heads.

A senior adviser to Mr Karzai said the outrage over the burning of religious texts at Bagram airfield north of Kabul had now become one of the biggest crises of the past ten years, surpassing previous angry protests about civilian casualties and other occasions when the Koran has allegedly been desecrated.

The official, who declined to be named, said dealing with the crisis was diverting attention and resources from the attempts to hand over the country to full Afghan control.

The country had been braced for violence for much of the day, before crowds of worshippers began to leave mosques at around 2pm after the main prayer gathering of the week.

German forces pulled out several weeks early from a small base in the northern Takhar province on Friday over concerns the base would be targeted, a defence ministry spokesman in Berlin said.

In Baghlan province, another protestor was shot dead when a crowd attacked a foreign base in the city of Pul-e-Khumri.

Barack Obama had sent a letter to Karzai apologising for the unintentional burning of the Korans at Bagram air base, north of Kabul. Protest spread to other Muslim nations, with demonstrations also in Malaysia and Pakistan.


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