Karzai urges calm amid unrest
KABUL/ MAIMANA (PAN): Amid President Hamid Karzai’s calls for clam, thousands of people took to the streets to protest the alleged burning of the Quran by US troops for a third consecutive day on Thursday in the capital Kabul and elsewhere in the country, witnesses said.
Despite apologies from senior American officials, furious Afghans staged a series of anti-US demonstrations in the Bagrami district of Kabul and in several towns of Nangarhar, Laghman, Maidan Wardak, Faryab, Baghlan and Logar provinces.
The demonstrators chanted slogans against foreign troops, as well as US and Afghan governments. They sought harsh punishment for the soldiers who allegedly burnt four copies of the holy book at the Bagram Airbase on Monday night.
Calling for the immediate withdrawal of international troops, hundreds of protestors gathered in the Bagrami district and then marched towards the capital city, a Pajhwok reporter at the scene said.
The protestors clashed with police who tried to prevent them from entering the capital city in the Karta-i-Naw area. Police fired into the air in a bid to disperse the angry mob. “We wanted to show our reaction to those who desecrated our sacred book,” said a protestor, Mullah Hafizullah.
Foreign troops had insulted the Islamic book several times, he said, adding but this time the Afghans would not stay silent. “During the Russian invasion, we rendered countless sacrifices to protect our religion. We have the same spirit now and remain ready to die for our faith.”
Some of the protestors tried to sneak into the district headquarters, but police blocked their way, a local police officer said.
Tribal elders from the district on Wednesday visited the district headquarters to inform officials that they planned to stage a peaceful protest. However, the district chief, Javed Dilawar, told Pajhwok Afghan News some militants had penetrated protestors to turn the protest violent.
A policeman was injured when protestors started hurling stones, he said, adding the situation was brought under control at around 12pm.
Separately, five people were injured when a hand grenade exploded in a crowd protesting the Quran desecration in northern Faryab province. The incident happened at around 1:10pm, with witnesses saying the grenade was thrown from the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT)’s compound.
The incident outraged the crowd, setting on fire 12 vehicles of the PRT workers and some trucks. A Pajhwok reporter at the scene said security forces tried to disperse the crowd and prevent it from entering the PRT compound.
A day earlier, at least eight people were killed and 30 others, including three policemen, wounded during a storm of protests across the country. Senior US military and political officials have apologised for the blasphemous act, but the Afghanistan Ulema Council head rejected their regrets.
In a statement, President Hamid Karzai urged Afghans not to resort to violence during their demonstrations against the blasphemous incident.
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