Afghans protest over Koran burning

Afghans protest over Koran burning

Anti-American demonstrations are under way on the outskirts of the Afghan capital and in another city over an incident that the US says was inadvertent burning of Muslim holy books at a military base.

Kabul provincial police spokesman Ashmatullah Stanekzai said hundreds of people are gathering today outside the Camp Phoenix base on the main road linking Kabul with the eastern Jalalabad city, closing the main trade route.

Police in Jalalabad said thousands are gathering in parts of the city to demonstrate.

The US apologised yesterday for the burning of books, including Korans, that had been pulled from the shelves of a detention centre library adjoining Bagram air base because they contained extremist messages or inscriptions.

Security forces fired volleys of gunshots into the air to disperse hundreds who had gathered outside a housing complex for foreigners on Kabul’s outskirts.

Angry demonstrators set a fuel truck ablaze outside the complex, on a main highway linking the Afghan capital with the eastern city of Jalalabad.

“Death to America,” chanted the protesters and automatic weapons fire could be heard, but it was unclear if Afghan security forces or camp guards were firing.

The White House later echoed military officials and said the burning of Korans and other Islamic reading material that had been tossed in a pile of garbage was accidental.

At the demonstration in Kabul, the city’s police chief Mohammad Ayub Salangi arrived at the scene with hundreds of reinforcements in an effort to bring the crowd under control.

A doctor at Kabul’s Wazir Akbar Khan hospital said at least 10 protesters had been brought in with gunshot wounds, with one in critical condition.

Several miles away, hundreds were also gathered outside Camp Phoenix and were hurling rocks at the installation, said Kabul provincial police spokesman Ashmatullah Stanekzai. There were reports that shots were also heard near Camp Phoenix.

Mr Stanekzai said another smaller and peaceful demonstration with just over 100 people was taking place in western Kabul near the capital’s university.

Police in eastern Jalalabad city said that thousands were gathering in parts of that city to demonstrate against the burnings.

After the Koran burning incident was made public on Tuesday, more than 2,000 Afghans protested outside Bagram Air Base near the capital.

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