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Two Police Officers Killed As Koran Protests Continue In Afghanistan


An Afghan policeman stands guard near the wreckage of a burned-out vehicle at UN headquarters in Mazar-e Sharif on April 2.
Two police officers were reported killed and 20 people wounded in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar today as protests over a U.S. Koran burning entered a second day in the city.

A spokesman for the Kandahar provincial council said police, protesters, and citizens -- including two children -- were among those injured in today's protests, which come a day after 10 people were killed during similar demonstrations in Kandahar.

Afghan officials said large demonstrations were also reported in the eastern city of Jalalabad.

Throughout the country, anger continues to mount over the burning of a Koran at a small Florida church. More than 20 people have died in protest-related violence, including seven foreign UN workers killed April 1 in the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif.

Speaking today to RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan, Dan McNorton, a spokesman for the UN mission in Afghanistan, said the UN had no plans to evacuate staff but was watching the continuing protests with caution.

"I think at this stage it is premature to try to speculate on where other demonstrations might take place in the country," he said. "What we have seen, by the attack on our office in Mazar-e Sharif, is that these attacks unfortunately can take place anywhere in the country.

"We will work and make sure that we can put various other security measures in place to ensure that we protect our staff -- unarmed civilians coming, giving up much to come to Afghanistan to serve and support the Afghan people and to build a better future for all of them."

The Taliban has issued a statement calling for Afghans to continue the protests and saying government forces are to blame for any violence.

In a statement, U.S. President Barack Obama denounced both the desecration of the Koran and the Afghan violence that has spread in its wake.

Obama said killing innocent people in response to the burning of the Koran was "outrageous." The statement added that "no religion tolerates the slaughter and beheading of innocent people, and there is no justification for such a dishonorable and deplorable act."

The extremist Christian preacher Terry Jones, who supervised the burning of a Koran in March at his Florida church, described the wave of Afghan violence as "tragic" but said it was radical Islamic elements, and not he, who was to blame.

RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan, with ageny reports