Latest update: 26/02/2012
- Afghanistan - demonstrations - Islam - NATO - Taliban - unrest
US troops wounded in Afghan grenade attack
Seven US soldiers were wounded in Afghanistan on Sunday when protesters hurled a grenade at their army base. The attack comes a day after two US advisers were killed inside the interior ministry in a sixth day of anti-American protests.
By News Wires (text)
AFP - A protester was killed and seven US soldiers were wounded in a grenade attack on their base in a sixth day of anti-American protests Sunday, police said, as President Hamid Karzai called for calm.
The latest violence came as police hunted an intelligence official suspected of killing two US officers at the interior ministry on Saturday—which led to NATO pulling all its advisors out of government ministries.
“The demonstrators hurled a hand grenade at US special forces base in Imam Sahib town of Kunduz province. As a result seven US special forces were wounded,” Kunduz police spokesman Sayed Sarwar Hussaini told AFP.
A spokesman for US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan said: “According to initial reports, an explosion occurred outside of an ISAF installation in northern Afghanistan early this afternoon.”
He said officials of NATO’S International Security Assistance Force were “gathering details at this time”, adding that more information could be released later.
Local officials said one person was killed in the anti-US demonstration in Imam Sahib as some 2,000 anti-US protesters tried to march on the provincial capital but were stopped by police.
“One dead and seven wounded protesters have been brought to hospital from Imam Sahib district so far,” said hospital official Mohammadullah.
In the neighbouring province of Samangan, two protesters were wounded during a one-hour demonstration in Aybak city, provincial governor Khairullah Anosh told AFP, but there were no reports of unrest elsehwere in Afghanistan.
The latest death brings the total toll in six days of demonstrations since the Koran burning at the Bagram airbase north of Kabul to more than 30.
President Karzai went on television Sunday to appeal for calm.
Karzai “condemned with the strongest words” the treatment of Islam’s holy book and said the perpetrators should be punished, but told his countrymen: “Now that we have shown our feelings it is time to be calm and peaceful.”
He said he respected the emotions of Afghans upset by the Koran burning, but urged them not to let “the enemies of Afghanistan misuse their feelings”.
Taliban insurgents have called on Afghans to kill foreign troops in revenge for the incident, and claimed to have been behind the shooting deaths of the two US advisors in the interior ministry in Kabul.
Government sources said police were hunting for an Afghan intelligence official suspected of the shooting.
NATO, which has a 130,000-strong US-led military force fighting the Taliban insurgency, has advisors throughout the Afghan government but commanding officer General John Allen ordered them all to be withdrawn.
“Despite being pulled from the ministries, the military advisers remained in contact with ministry personnel,” a spokesman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, Lt Col Jimmie Cummings, said Sunday.
“We will not let this incident divide the coalition,” he said on ISAF’s Twitter feed.
Analysts said, however, it had plunged relations between Afghans and their Western allies to an all time low.
“It has never been as bad as this and it could be a turning point” in the West’s 10-year mission in the war-torn country, said Martine van Bijlert of the Afghanistan Analysts’ Network.
The US rushed to condemn the Koran burning, with US President Barack Obama apologising to the Afghan people for what he said was a mistake and pledging that the perpetrators would be punished.
But furious Afghans took to the streets across the country and tried to attack French, Norwegian, UN and US bases, shouting “Death to America”.
Among the dead were two US troops killed when an Afghan soldier turned his weapon on them as protesters approached their base in eastern Afghanistan.
Cases of Afghan security forces turning on their Western allies have increased in recent years, with a leaked classified coalition report saying last month that they “reflect a rapidly growing systemic homicide threat”.
Four French soldiers were gunned down by an Afghan colleague last month, prompting President Nicolas Sarkozy to announce an accelerated withdrawal of combat troops in 2013.
The US has said it will end all combat operations in 2014.