At least four people were killed by Afghan security forces yesterday as protests over the burnings of the Muslim holy book at a NATO base erupted for a fifth day, with an attempt by demonstrators to bombard a UN compound in the north.
Despite an apology from US President Barack Obama and a call for restraint from Afghan President Hamid Karzai, thousands took to the streets after 12 people were killed and dozens wounded on Friday, the bloodiest day yet in demonstrations.
Protests were raging in the restive northern Kunduz Province, where three protesters were shot dead and 50 wounded, health official Sahad Mokhtar said.
Hundreds of protesters tried to overrun a compound there housing workers from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, but were held back by police, Afghan Ministry of the Interior spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said.
Officers had so far managed to stop the crowd from entering the compound, police spokesman Sarwar Husaini said, adding that reinforcements were being sent to protect the complex.
“They’ve burnt several shops and cars in the city,” he said, with witnesses describing columns of smoke hanging over Kunduz.
Sahad Mokhtar, head of the public health department in Kunduz, said: “The report we have so far from hospitals is three killed, 47 wounded in today’s [yesterday’s] demonstrations.”
There were protests in at least five different provinces of Afghanistan yesterday over the incineration of Korans — which prisoners were allegedly using to pass messages — at the US airbase at Bagram near Kabul.
The Koran burning has inflamed anti-Western sentiment already smouldering in Afghanistan over abuses by US-led foreign troops, such as the release last month of a video showing US Marines urinating on the corpses of dead Afghans.
There were violent protests yesterday in Mihtarlam, in the central province of Laghman, where hospital officials said 15 protesters had been brought in with gunshot wounds.
Also yesterday, a protester was shot dead in Logar Province south of Kabul after hundreds of protesters, many chanting “Death to America!” — a slogan heard at protests throughout this week — charged at police, local officials said. Two people were wounded.
Twenty people were wounded when demonstrators hurled stones in eastern Laghman Province, health official Abdul Qayumi said.
The capital, Kabul, was calm, with police and security forces deployed across the city.
The circumstances surrounding the Koran incident are still subject to investigation.