Fresh Anti-US Protests Erupt in Afghanistan

Posted February 24th, 2012 at 6:15 pm (UTC-5)
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American apologies are falling on deaf ears in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan, where anger over the burning of Qurans is boiling over.

Thousands of Afghans poured onto the streets following prayers Friday, many chanting “Death to America.”

Afghan officials say at least nine people were killed, seven of them in the western province of Herat, when demonstrations there turned violent. Hundreds protested near the American consulate in Herat, but U.S. officials deny reports that anyone was shot while trying to storm the compound.

There are also reports of injuries from protests in the capital of Kabul. And protesters also took to the streets in the eastern provinces of Nangarhar and Ghazni. At least one person was reported dead in Baghlan province.

Friday's fatalities bring the death toll from four days of unrest in Afghanistan to at least 22. Two American soldiers were among those killed on Thursday.

Protesters chanting anti-American slogans demonstrated Friday in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, and in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

The demonstrations in Afghanistan have continued despite calls for restraint from NATO and Afghan officials.

On Friday, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, General John Allen, said the joint coalition and Afghan investigation into the “mishandling of religious materials” at Bagram Air Base continues, with witnesses to Sunday's incident being interviewed.

General Allen issued a statement saying “working together with the Afghan leadership is the only way for us to correct this major error and ensure that it never happens again.”

U.S. President Barack Obama has sent a written apology to Afghan President Hamid Karzai about the desecration of Qurans at Bagram.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul has urged Americans to avoid any unnecessary movement within the South Asian nation.

On Thursday, the Taliban issued a statement calling on Afghans to launch attacks on foreign targets in retaliation for the burning of the Muslim holy book.

Germany on Friday withdrew its troops from a base in northern Afghanistan because of the continuing demonstrations.

Around 50 German soldiers were set to leave the outpost in the Taloqan area of Takhar province by the end of March after security control was transferred to local forces.

But a German military spokesman said the troops left the base Friday and were transferred to Kunduz province after demonstrations in Taloqan.

On Wednesday, President Karzai appealed for calm, saying citizens have the right to protest, but should not resort to violence.

The Afghan delegations assigned to probe the incident have also appealed to the Afghan people to avoid resorting to protests.