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2 US Officers Killed as Anti-US Protests Rage for 5th Day

Withdrawal of all foreign advisers announced after killing of two US military officers in Kabul's interior ministry.

Common Dreams staff

Koran Protests: Protesters burn an effigy of US President Barack Obama as two American NATO advisers were shot to death inside the Afghan interior ministry. (Photo/AFP)

Two senior American army officers have been shot dead inside a high security command center at the Afghan Interior Ministry in Kabul as anti-US protests raged for a fifth day.

The Taliban said it carried out the attack in retaliation for the burning of copies of the Koran by US soldiers last week.

Following today's shooting NATO announced it was withdrawing all its staff from all Afghan government ministries in the capital.

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Al Jazeera reports:

The announcement came hours after the shooting on Saturday of two International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) military advisers in the Ministry of Interior in Kabul city.

Al Jazeera's Bernard Smith, reporting live from the Afghan capital, said the withdrawal of hundreds of military and civilian advisers is a sign that NATO feels "no place is secure for any of their advisers" in Afghanistan. [...]

The two American service members were inside a room in the ministry's command and control complex used only by foreign advisers. The only Afghans with access to that area are translators, Afghan officials said.

The interior ministry issued a statement confirming that two of the ministry's international colleagues were killed and that an investigation had been launched.

Additional reports claimed the men were US military officers serving as ISAF trainers.

A statement issued by NATO said "initial reports indicate an individual turned his weapon against International Security Assistance Force service members in Kabul city today, killing two service members". [...]

In statements on their website and a Twitter account, the Taliban have claimed responsibility for the shootings, which they say are in retaliation for reports of Quran burnings at a US airbase.

Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said the gunman was a man named Abdul Rahman. Mujahid said an accomplice inside the ministry helped Rahman gain access to the building. [...]

The shooting comes on the fifth day of protests across the nation sparked by the burning of Qurans at a US base.

Also on Saturday, at least four protesters were killed and 34 wounded as Afghans held protests for the fifth straight day against the burning of the Quran at a US-led base in the country, hospital officials have told Al Jazeera.

Three of the protesters were killed at a protest outside a United Nations compound in Kunduz province on Saturday morning, hospital officials said, adding that 30 other demonstrators were wounded in that protest.

The demonstration on Saturday had initially been peaceful, but turned violent after protesters threw stones at government buildings and the UN office, said Sarwer Hussaini, a spokesman for the provincial police. He said police had fired into the air to disperse protesters.

Protests also erupted in several other provinces on Saturday, with demonstrations reported in Sar-e-pol and Nangarhar provinces. In Laghman province, a protest reportedly turned violent when an estimated 1,000 protesters threw rocks at police and attempted to storm the governor's house.

There were reports of casualties at that protest, but there was no immediate confirmation on the number of wounded.

On Friday, protests across the country led to the deaths of 11 Afghans, including a protester who was shot dead in the capital Kabul. It was the deadliest day of protests since demonstrations began five days ago.

Saturday's deaths bring the five-day total to over 30 people killed, including two US soldiers who were shot dead on Thursday in eastern Afghanistan.

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