South Asia News
9 killed, 73 injured in Koran protest in Kandahar
Apr 2, 2011, 9:45 GMT
Kandahar, Afghanistan - Nine protesters were killed and more than 70 injured Saturday when a protest against the burning of a Koran turned violent in the southern Afghanistan province of Kandahar, officials said.
The incident came a day after a similar protest that turned violent in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif left seven UN workers and five Afghan protesters dead. Two of the UN workers were beheaded.
Zelmai Ayoubi, spokesman for Kandahar's governor, said nine protesters were killed and 73 were injured in the incident.
He said police had arrested 16 men including seven armed 'enemy opportunists' who had penetrated the crowded and led the peaceful demonstration to violence.
Ayoubi confirmed that police fired into the air to disperse the demonstrators. He said police had so far been able to control the mob and keep the angry men in separate groups in three locations of the city.
Abdul Qayoum Pukhla, director of the health department in Kandahar had earlier said that four dead and 31 injured were brought to the provincial hospital. All the dead victims had gunshot wounds, while some of the injured people were hurt by stones, he said.
Up to 2,000 protesters took to streets Saturday morning in the provincial capital city, also called Kandahar, chanting anti-US slogans, witnesses and a German News Agency dpa reporter said.
The protesters burned several vehicles and hurled stones at police who were trying to control the mob.
Ayoubi said that the protesters torched a girls' high school and burned down a school bus in the centre of the city.
Ahmad Wali Karzai, the head of provincial council in Kandahar and the younger brother of President Hamid Karzai, confirmed that dozens were killed and wounded in 'today's so-called protest.'
'They were not protesters. They were opportunists and they broke glasses of shops and torched vehicles in the Kandahar city,' Karzai told dpa.
Smoke billowed from at least half a dozen locations as the entire city was locked down with nearly all shops and restaurants shut, witness Abdul Qadir said.
The recent protests were held in response to an incident in which a US evangelical Christian preacher burned a copy of the Koran on March 21 in Florida in the United States.
Four Nepalese security guards and three Europeans were among those killed Friday in Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province. Police said the protesters overwhelmed security guards at the compound and barged in, torching the office and throwing stones at police who arrived at the scene to control the mob.
Similar demonstrations were also reported in the capital Kabul and western city of Herat on Friday, while hundreds of protesters also took to the streets in the capital city of the northern province of Takhar on Saturday.
Read more about Afghanistan Demos
Read more about UN
Read more about US