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Police Open Fire on Afghan Student Protest
Published on Tuesday, November 12, 2002 by Agence France Presse
Police Open Fire on Afghan Student Protest
Police opened fire on several thousand students protesting in the Afghan capital against authorities' handling of an earlier university riot in which at least one student was killed.

The protests marked the first major demonstration in the city since it was liberated from the hardline Taliban regime almost exactly one year ago by a US-led military campaign.

Students from Kabul University protest outside their campus in Afghanistan 's capital Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2002. Hundreds of students enraged over a lack of food and electricity in their dormitory clashed Monday night with police in violent demonstrations that carried into the morning. Police opened fire on student protesters, killing one and wounding five others, the Interior Ministry said. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Crowds shouting "death to the student killers" charged riot police armed with rifles, batons and water cannon. The students retaliated with stones, prompting police to open fire initially in the air and then into the crowds, an AFP correspondent witnessed Tuesday.

Din Mohammad Jurat, the interior ministry's director of public order, told reporters at the Kabul university campus that shots had not been aimed at the students.

"The students are our brothers. We tried to calm down the situation. There were just a small number of problem-creating elements.

"We haven't fired at the students today. We just fired in the air to control the situation."

Police were also seen beating several students with batons. At least three were carried away with severe head injuries.

The students had taken to the streets in protest at police handling of a demonstration late Monday against a lack of power, water and food at the university's dormitories.

Interior Minister Taj Mohammad Wardak said at least one student died in the Monday protest when police and soldiers were called in to break up a rock-throwing crowd.

Officials said another 15 were injured, including two military personnel.

A spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) which patrols Kabul confirmed one person died in Monday's uprising.

"Sadly several people were injured and it appears at least one person was killed," Major Gordon Mackenzie said.

One student, who did not wish to be identified, said the demonstrators were only asking why conditions could not be improved.

"We asked them a logical question: why they did not improve conditions? They answered us with bullets," he said.

Wardak said an investigation had been ordered into the Monday night riot and the conditions in which the students were living.

"Their big mistake was to stage their protest at night. This has never happened before in the history of Kabul. They threw rocks at everything, every car in the area," he said.

Afghanistan's education ministry earlier ordered that medical students would shortly have to sit end-of-year exams, despite appeals to delay the tests because of recent bad weather.

Some 3,000 students, mostly from the country's poor outlying provinces, have protested that without electricity they are unable to study at night or keep warm in the large, poorly insulated university dormitories.

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which started last week, has added to problems since students have no power to heat the little food they have before beginning or after breaking their traditional daily fast.

Kabul has been hit by a series of student protests since last year's fall of the fundamentalist Taliban, under which education was severely restricted.

Afzal Aman, deputy chief of Kabul's garrison, said the latest uprising may have been inflamed by infiltrators belonging to the Taliban or the al-Qaeda terror network of Osama bin Laden.

"Inshalla (God willing) there is not any political reason for this demonstration. Of course, during the Taliban time there were lots of people studying here who were trained to fight by al-Qaeda. Maybe there are a number here who will use the situation to their benefit."

© 2002 Copyright AFP


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