Nine killed as protests spread to Kandahar over Qur'an burning

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Front of the Qur'an

Violent protests over the burning of a Qur'an by a US church spread on Saturday to the southern Afghanistan city of Kandahar, a day after an angry mob attacked a United Nations compound at Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan, killing seven UN workers and four Afghan protesters.

According to Kandahar officials, the protests over the desecration of the Qur'an in Florida a month ago started peacefully but became violent when mobs began roaming the streets, vandalizing buildings and burning cars. Afghan police and US soldiers tried to protect a complex of government buildings when a mob attempted to storm them.

Nine people were killed, and 73 injured. Some witnesses said that people who refused to join the violence were beaten and stoned. Others said Afghan police shot demonstrators. The police have denied shooting anyone. "There [was] gunfire into the air in order to bring the people under control, and luckily not one has been killed as a result of the gunfire," said Zemarai Bashari, Interior Ministry spokesperson as reported by CNN.

Zalmai Ayoubi, spokesperson for the governor of Kandahar province, said that Afghan police arrested 17 people, seven of whom were armed and are suspects in the shooting of protesters. He blamed Taliban insurgents and their supporters for infiltrating the demonstration.

A Taliban spokesperson, Zabiullah Mojahed, denied that the Taliban was responsible for any deaths during Saturday's violence: "It was the Afghan police that killed the innocent people of Kandahar while they were expressing their feeling against the burning of holy Quran in Florida."

Kandahar is seen as a stronghold of the Taliban insurgency and in the last two months the province has seen several assassinations and suicide bombings.

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