Latest update: 03/04/2011
- Afghanistan - Taliban - United Nations
Protests against US Koran burning enter third day
At least two people were killed and 18 injured in Kandahar on Sunday as protests against the burning of a Koran in the United States entered their third day.
AFP - Two people were killed and dozens injured on Sunday as new demonstrations erupted in Afghanistan over the burning of a Koran in the United States, officials said.
One person was killed and 18 injured in what officials described as an accidental explosion that ripped through crowds of protesters in the southern city of Kandahar.
Hundreds of people had taken to the streets to protest against the burning of a Koran in the United States presided over by pastor Terry Jones last month.
Violent protests that began in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif on Friday have claimed the lives of at least 22 people including seven foreign UN staff.
"The protesters set ablaze a traffic police booth. Inside there was a gas bottle which exploded," interior ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary told AFP, calling it "accidental."
On Saturday 10 people were killed and more than 80 injured in clashes with security forces during day-long protests in the southern city.
The fresh wave of protests began in Kandahar city and two adjoining districts on the third day of violent demonstrations sparked by the Koran burning.
The United Nations vowed that the attack Friday that left seven of its staff dead would not derail its work in Afghanistan during a "crucial period" for the war-torn nation.
US President Barack Obama condemned the UN attack and also described the Koran burning as an act of "extreme intolerance and bigotry".
Casualties were reported on Sunday at demonstrations in Kandahar city and the neighbouring districts of Panjwayi and Dand.
At least one person was killed, a government official said on condition of anonymity, though it was not clear where the death occurred.
Kandahar provincial government spokesman Zalmai Ayoubi told AFP the situation was "under control."
Kandahar is the spiritual heartland of the Taliban, who have fought an insurgency against Karzai's government and its Western allies since they were ousted by the US-led invasion.
Elsewhere, about 500 university students protested in the eastern city of Jalalabad and blocked a key road for several hours, while hundreds of men poured onto the streets in Charikar, capital of Parwan province, north of Kabul, local television reported.
The wave of protests against the Koran burning erupted Friday in the usually quiet northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif where seven staff at the UN mission were killed by an angry mob.
The assault on the UN compound raises fresh concerns over plans by President Hamid Karzai and the international coalition to hand control of security in Mazar-i-Sharif, along with six other areas, to Afghan forces from July 1.
The attack on the UN was the worst in Afghanistan since the Taliban were toppled in 2001 but special representative Staffan de Mistura vowed the organisation's work would not be affected.
"This should not deter the UN presence, activities, in this country in this delicate and particularly crucial period," he said.
The remaining foreign staff from the compound would be temporarily moved to Kabul, he said, but would return as soon as a secure office was established in Mazar-i-Sharif.
"This is not an evacuation. We will watch and monitor the situation everywhere in the country... and I will then decide on relocations inside the country -- not outside the country -- depending on the circumstances," he said.
De Mistura blamed insurgents from outside Mazar-i-Sharif for the deadly attack claimed by the Taliban, saying armed rebels had infiltrated street protests.
He criticised the Afghan authorities, saying police should have thrown up a protective cordon around the mission building when the protest broke out.
Between 2,000 and 3,000 demonstrators had taken to the streets after Friday prayers. They threw stones at the UN compound before storming it, and overwhelmed the Nepalese guards, killing four.
De Mistura said three Europeans -- a Swede, a Romanian and a Norwegian -- were shot after fleeing to a secure room, which the attackers managed to enter. One had his throat cut after being shot, he added.
The head of the UN office, a Russian, survived the attack by pretending to be Muslim and speaking the local language Dari.
De Mistura said seven or eight people had been arrested over the attack, and some of them appeared to be rebels from elsewhere.
Friday's attack was the worst suffered by the world body since a bomb blast at the UN compound in Algiers in 2007 in which 17 staff died.