Afghans Continue Protests Over US Quran Burning
Afghans protested for a fourth day against last month’s burning of a Quran in the United States.
Authorities says hundreds of stone-throwing demonstrators scuffled with police in Mehterlam, the provincial capital of the eastern Laghman province. No casualties have so far been reported.
Officials say at least 19 people have died and 100 people have been wounded in Afghanistan since Friday when demonstrations began. In the deadliest incident, seven foreign United Nations staff members were killed in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, when a U.N. compound was attacked by protesters.
The protests follow the March 20 burning of a Quran by the head of a small fundamentalist church in the southern U.S. state of Florida.
The Quran burning initially received little press coverage in Afghanistan. But after Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the act, religious leaders called for justice and thousands took to the streets across Afghanistan in protest.
General David Petraeus, the commander of the U.S.-led international forces has denounced the burning and offered condolences to the families of those killed and wounded. U.S. President Barack Obama has also condemned the burning of the Muslim holy book.
Meanwhile, two American soldiers have been killed by a shooter wearing an Afghan border patrol uniform in the north, according to Afghan military officials.
Karzai Lit the Match for Murder, Afghan Leader Calls for Justice
Book burning leads to blood letting
Protests against the March 20 burning of a Quran in Florida continued into a fourth day in Afghanistan, after at least seven U.N. workers — a Swede, a Norwegian, a Romanian, and four Nepalese guards — were killed after angry protesters stormed the U.N. compound in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif on Friday, the deadliest attack on the U.N. in Afghanistan since 2009 (Reuters, BBC, McClatchy, AP, Post, Pajhwok, NYT, AP, AFP, Reuters). Afghan and U.N. authorities believe 7 to 15 insurgents infiltrated the crowd of some 3,000 demonstrators, at least five of whom were also killed in the attack, which was condemned by the U.S. and the U.N. Security Council (AFP, Reuters, Pajhwok, Times, Tel, NYT). Afghan president Hamid Karzai expressed regret for the deaths, while demanding that the U.S. and U.N. “bring to justice” the pastor responsible for the Quran burning, and the AP reports that, “Many Afghans did not know about the Quran-burning until Karzai condemned it four days after it happened” (AP, Guardian, LAT). The WSJ reconstructed the Mazar attack, writing that “ordinary Afghan demonstrators played a critical role in the attack” (WSJ).
The protests spread over the weekend to Kandahar, Jalalabad, Parwan, Laghman, Kabul, Takhar, and Herat, and as many as 30 people have been killed and more than 100 wounded (Post, AP, Pajhwok, Reuters, Post, FT, Pajhwok, Tolo, LAT, Pajhwok, NYT, AFP, BBC, AJE). Several reporters were beaten and had equipment destroyed by protestors while covering demonstrations in Kandahar (Pajhwok). Two Taliban suicide bombers targeted a NATO base in Kabul on Saturday, and a third was gunned down before he detonated his explosives (AP, AFP, CNN). Bonus AfPak Channel reads: Christine Fair and Thomas Ruttig on the Mazar attacks.
A man wearing an Afghan border police uniform reportedly shot and killed two NATO soldiers in Faryab earlier today, and a suicide bomber detonated explosives outside a court house in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand, wounding his fellow suicide bomber and three others (AP, BBC, Pajhwok, NYT, AFP).
Attack on a shrine
As many as 50 worshipers were killed and 65 wounded yesterday when a pair of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan suicide bombers detonated explosives at the shrine of the Sufi saint Sakhi Sarwar in Dera Ghazi Khan, in Punjab province (DT, NYT, LAT, Geo, The News, AJE, Reuters, AP, Reuters, AFP, ET, Dawn). Pakistani police said the attack was planned in Bajaur and have arrested three people, including a 14 year old boy who struggled against police and shouted, “Let me go, I want to be a martyr, I want to send all you policemen to hell!” and the Express Tribune reports that a secret Punjab government document found that 261 of the province’s 319 shrines had no security, while the remaining 58 had unsatisfactory security (AP, ET). Earlier today, seven people were killed in a suicide bombing at a bus station in the small town of Jandool in Lower Dir (BBC, AP, ET).
In Khyber, clashes between Zakhakhel tribesman and the militant group Lashkar-e-Islam, which reportedly captured and killed a Zakhakhel religious leader several days ago, left at least 20 dead and 50 injured (Dawn, ET). Pakistani military operations continue in Khyber, Hangu, and Darra Adam Khel (Dawn, Geo, ET). Karachi police report that at least 109 people were killed in targeted attacks in the city in the first quarter of 2011, though human rights groups say as many as 260 have died (ET).
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