Four shot dead as Afghans riot at reported US insult to Koran
AFGHAN police opened fire on protesters yesterday, killing four and wounding dozens more, during violent demonstrations over a report that United States interrogators had desecrated the Koran.
US forces stationed in the conservative city of Jalalabad, 80 miles east of Kabul, were called back to base when the trouble began, leaving Afghan authorities to handle it, at their request, an American spokeswoman said.
Government offices were set on fire, shops looted and United Nations buildings and diplomatic missions attacked as thousands of people took to the streets, witnesses said.
Police fired several times to disperse crowds. Four people were killed and 52 wounded, the provincial health chief, Fazel Mohammad Ibrahimi, said after compiling information from three city hospitals.
"Police had to open fire, they were destroying the city," said the provincial police chief, Hazrat Ali.
About 1,000 school students demonstrated in nearby Laghman province. In Khost city, also in the east, protesters burned a picture of the US president, George Bush, and a US flag. Kabul was quiet.
The protests are thought to have been provoked by a report in Newsweek magazine which claimed investigators examining abuses at the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had found interrogators "had placed Korans on toilets, and in at least one case flushed a holy book down the toilet".
About 2,000 students chanting "Death to America" protested in Jalalabad on Tuesday, demanding an apology and punishment for those involved in the incident. Many more turned out yesterday, said a witness who estimated the number at more than 5,000.
Cars were smashed, shops ransacked and government buildings, including the governor’s office, set alight.
Protesters looted the Pakistani consulate and attacked an Indian mission, one witness said. Smoke billowed across the city, which sprawls along the main road to Pakistan.
Two UN cars were set on fire and two UN offices attacked, said a UN spokeswoman, Ariane Quentier. All staff had been accounted for and confined to safe areas.
Witnesses said police and national army troops had restored order by early yesterday afternoon.
In Kabul, the US embassy said it was deeply concerned and saddened by the loss of life. The US government was investigating the allegation about the Koran; disrespect towards the holy book of any religion was unacceptable, it said.
Afghanistan’s US-backed president, Hamid Karzai, said on a visit to NATO headquarters in Brussels that the riot showed Afghan authorities were not ready to handle protests.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 3 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: West