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Police Fire on Anti-US Protesters in Afghanistan

At least nine killed in clashes as Afghans rage in wake of Koran burnings

- Common Dreams staff

UPDATE: (1:01 PM EST) "At least nine demonstrators were shot dead and dozens wounded Wednesday in violent protests across Afghanistan over the burning of the Koran at a US-run military base," according to Agence France-Presse.

United Press International had this video report:

And noted that "Jan Kubis, the U.N. special envoy to Afghanistan, expressed regret for the "improper handling" of the Koran. A readout from the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan stated the incident was a "sad mistake" that in no way reflects the United Nations' respect for the Islamic faith."

Earlier:Afghan policemen run toward protesters during an anti-U.S. demonstration in Kabul, Afghanistan, Feb. 22, 2012. (AP)

The deaths occurred Wednesday in the Afghan capital and in the eastern provinces of Logar and Parwan, according to reports.

Radio Free Europe reports:

Demonstrations in Afghanistan over the burning of copies of the Koran at a NATO base have turned deadly -- with at least five people reported killed -- as Afghan police fired live ammunition into riotous crowds in Kabul and the eastern city of Jalalabad.

Roshan Khalid, a spokeswoman for the provincial government in Parwan Province north of Kabul, says three demonstrators were killed on the second day of protests in the Shinwar district.

Shinwar is close to Bagram Air Field, where NATO officials say a number of Korans were "inadvertently" burned on February 1.

In Jalalabad, a doctor says one young man was killed and 10 wounded on February 22 by live ammunition fired into an angry crowd of protesters.

RFE/RL's correspondent in Jalalabad says the shots were fired by members of the Afghan National Police who were trying to contain the surging crowd.

Meanwhile, at a protest in Kabul on the same day, doctors say one protester was killed and 10 others wounded by Afghan police who opened fire on demonstrators who were trying to march on the city center.

And provided this video:

Reuters adds:

The American Embassy said its staff were in "lockdown" and travel had been suspended as thousands of people expressed fury over the burning, a public relations disaster for U.S.-led NATO forces fighting Taliban militants ahead of the withdrawal of foreign combat troops by the end of 2014.

The U.S. government and the American commander of NATO-led forces in Afghanistan apologized after Afghan laborers found charred copies of the Koran while collecting rubbish at the sprawling Bagram Airbase about an hour's drive north of Kabul.

It failed to contain the fury. Thousands of Afghans took to the streets again, chanting anti-American slogans.[...]

Police said most injuries were caused by flying stones and sticks hurled by protesters. Demonstrators had charged police lines and nearby military bases at a protest on the edge of Kabul, burning tires and smashing vehicles and building windows.

Protesters shouted "Death to America!" and "Death to (President Hamid) Karzai" in a large demonstration on the outskirts of the Afghan capital.

"When the Americans insult us to this degree, we will join the insurgents," said Ajmal, an 18-year-old protester in Kabul.

Demonstrators set fire to part of a housing compound used by foreign contract workers. A Reuters witness said the fire damaged part of a guesthouse at the Green Village complex, where 1,500 mostly foreign contractors live and work.

Outrage also spilled over in the Afghan parliament, where several members shouted "death to America" inside the legislative chamber. [...]

Afghan media said demonstrations had also erupted in the province of Parwan, near the capital.

In Logar province, hundreds protested in front of the governor's office. Some threw stones. Separate protests were also under way in Jalalabad in the east.

Some protesters burned U.S. flags and shouted "Death to America." Others torched fuel tankers near the city's airport.

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