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Asia-pacific

Protests intensify over Koran burnings

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Latest update : 2012-02-25

Angry Afghans took to the streets for a fifth day of anti-Western protests on Saturday, following reports that NATO troops had burned copies of the Koran. Rallies in four different provinces have killed 24 people so far.

AFP - Hundreds of Afghans took part in anti-US protests in four different provinces on Saturday, authorities said, in a fifth day of demonstrations over the burning of Korans that have killed 24 people.

Rallies were being held in the eastern provinces of Logar and Nangarhar, and the central province of Sari Pul, government and local police sources said, adding that those gatherings were largely peaceful so far.

But a demonstrator in Mihtarlam, in northeastern Laghman province, named only as Abdullah, who put the crowd there at "around 2,000", said: "The protesters turned violent and were throwing stones at the governor's palace.

"Gunshots were fired by the security forces."

No local officials could immediately be reached to confirm his account.

In Sari Pul, demonstrator Mohammad Sadiq said "around 5,000" people had gathered at the Pul-e-Khishti mosque. "They condemned the holy Koran burning," he said. "It is not violent yet."

Authorities were not immediately able to confirm the size of the crowd.

In Logar, a police source said: "Around 200 people, mostly university students have taken to the streets in Muhammad Agha district.

"They have closed the Kabul-Logar highway, and are chanting 'Death to America' and 'Death to Karzai'."

It was the fifth day of anti-US protests in Afghanistan over the burning of Korans at the US airbase of Bagram, near Kabul, and 24 people had been killed by Friday according to an AFP tally.

The Koran burning has inflamed anti-Western sentiment already smouldering 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.

President Hamid Karzai's government and the US-led NATO mission in Afghanistan have appealed for calm and restraint, fearful that Taliban insurgents are trying to exploit the anti-American backlash.

The circumstances surrounding the Koran incident are still subject to investigation. But US officials told AFP the military removed the books from a prison at Bagram because inmates were suspected of using them to pass messages.

Date created : 2012-02-25

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