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Afghanistan

At Least Seven Dead In Afghan Protests As Karzai Calls For Calm

Protests In Afghanistan Turn Deadlyi
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February 22, 2012
Afghan police in Kabul and Jalalabad fired weapons to disperse protesters angered by reports that foreign troops had burned copies of the Koran. At least five people were reported killed and many more wounded on the second day of unrest. AP video
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has appealed to his countrymen for calm amid clashes between Afghan security forces and demonstrators protesting over the burning of copies of the Koran at a NATO base.

Demonstrations, already in their second day, turned deadly on February 22 as Afghan police fired live ammunition into rioting crowds from Kabul to the eastern city of Jalalabad.

In a statement, Karzai urged both protesters and security forces not to use violence, adding he was deeply saddened by the loss of civilian lives.

The Interior Ministry said seven people had been killed in the violence.

The ministry said police in Kabul, Jalalabad, and the province of Logar each shot dead one protester on February 22 as angry crowds stormed foreign military bases, Afghan riot police, and Afghan government buildings.

It said another four people were killed during a protest in Parwan Province near Bagram Air Field -- where NATO said some Korans "inadvertently" had been burned on February 20.

Earlier, a local official in Parwan Province said up to six demonstrators had been killed there.

In Jalalabad, a doctor confirmed that 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 said 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, doctors say one protester was killed and 10 other wounded by Afghan police who opened fire on demonstrators who were trying to march on the city center.

A Reuters correspondent said the demonstrators were charging at police and had begun smashing the windows of nearby cars.

On the outskirts of Kabul, police fired in the air over a crowd that gathered outside a housing complex for foreigners and a U.S. base.

Nearby, demonstrators set a fuel truck ablaze on the main highway linking the Afghan capital with Jalalabad.

U.S. Embassy Lockdown

Some chanted "Death to America" as they hurled rocks and set fires outside of the Camp Phoenix complex -- which is home to foreign contractors, police and some coalition military forces.

Afghan police say a smaller, peaceful demonstration with about 100 people took place in the western part of the capital, near Kabul University.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul, meanwhile, has locked down its staff -- recommending they do not venture outside for security reasons.

WATCH: Outside the Bagram military base near Kabul, protesters threw rocks and gasoline bombs or fired slingshots on February 21. (video by Sayedjan Sabawoon, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan)
Afghans Protest At Bagram Air Fieldi
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February 22, 2012
After the commander of international troops in Afghanistan confirmed that foreign troops "improperly" disposed of Islamic religious materials, including Korans, some 2,000 Afghans protested on February 21 outside the Bagram military base. Some protesters threw rocks and gasoline bombs or fired slingshots, and NATO forces responded by firing rubber bullets. Video by Sayedjan Sabawoon, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan


Afghan authorities deployed hundreds of police reinforcements in Kabul in a bid to restore order.

The United States apologized on February 21 for the burning of Islamic religious materials -- including some copies of the Koran. The book had been pulled from the shelves of a detention center library at Bagram Air Field because they contained extremist messages or inscriptions.

Afghan workers, who discovered the Korans in a pile of garbage that was being incinerated, managed to save most of the Korans from being completely destroyed.

The books were later given to an Afghan provincial official to properly dispose of them.

In Washington, the White House and the Pentagon both apologized for the incident, calling it a mistake.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has ordered an investigation into why the Islamic religious materials were delivered to an incinerator pit at Bagram.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the Taliban in Afghanistan have condemned the burning, both of them saying the values of Islam had been "degraded."

In the southern city of Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban movement in Afghanistan, a provincial official blamed the burning on "the actions of idiots."

With additional reporting by Reuters and AFP
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