Nine killed in Afghan protest over Quran burning

McClatchy NewspapersApril 2, 2011 

KABUL, Afghanistan — A second day of deadly violence over the burning of a Quran by a Florida pastor left at least nine people dead and more than 80 injured Saturday in Afghanistan.

Saturday's clashes between demonstrators and Afghan police took place in Kandahar, a southern city that's a Taliban stronghold.

On Friday in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, a mob of angry protesters raided the United Nations compound and killed 12 people, including seven foreign nationals working for the organization. They were protesting the burning of the Muslim holy book March 20 by controversial preacher Terry Jones of Gainesville, Fla.

On Saturday, President Barack Obama expressed sympathy for the families of the U.N. attack.

"The desecration of any holy text, including the Quran, is an act of extreme intolerance and bigotry," he said in a statement. "However, to attack and kill innocent people in response is outrageous, and an affront to human decency and dignity."

Overall, violence has increased in Afghanistan in recent months, as Afghan security forces are preparing to take over security responsibilities from the U.S.-led NATO forces this summer.

The demonstration Saturday started around 8:30 a.m., said Fazel Ahmad Sherzad, the deputy police chief of Kandahar. He said demonstrators chanting anti-U.S. slogans were burning and looting shops. He blamed the Taliban for whipping up the anti-American sentiment.

"The Taliban insurgents are absolutely involved in this," he said.

A statement by the Kandahar governor's office said that nine protesters had been killed and 81 injured. Seventeen people, including seven armed men, were arrested, the statement said.

There were also small, peaceful demonstrations Friday and Saturday in Kabul, the capital, and the eastern city of Herat.

Also Saturday, three suicide attackers who targeted a U.S. base in eastern Kabul were killed Saturday morning but failed to breach the compound, U.S. and Afghan officials said.

Capt. Ciro Parisi, a spokesman for the coalition, confirmed the attack and said three American soldiers were slightly wounded. He wouldn't identify the wounded soldiers.

A statement from the Afghan Interior Ministry said that about 7 a.m. three suicide attackers wearing burqas — the full-body covering commonly worn by Afghan women — got close to an entrance of Camp Phoenix. One detonated his explosives while the other two opened fire with automatic weapons, the statement said.

Camp Phoenix, on the outskirts of Kabul, is home of combined Joint Task Force Phoenix, which trains the Afghan National Army. Mostly U.S. soldiers are stationed there.

(Shukoor is a McClatchy special correspondent.)

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