US Embassy Shut as Afghans Protest Quran Burnings

Wednesday, 22 Feb 2012 08:58 AM

 

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Anti-American demonstrations erupted on the outskirts of Kabul for a second day Wednesday and in another Afghan city over an incident that the U.S. said was inadvertent burning of Muslim holy books at a military base in Afghanistan.

The U.S. embassy in Kabul was on lockdown as protests raged in multiple cities, with police killing at least three.

Security forces fired volleys of gunshots into the air to disperse hundreds who had gathered outside a housing complex for foreigners on Kabul's outskirts. Angry demonstrators set a fuel truck ablaze outside the complex, on a main highway linking the Afghan capital with the eastern city of Jalalabad.

"Death to America," chanted the angry protesters and automatic weapons fire could be heard, but it was unclear if Afghan security forces or camp guards were firing.

The U.S. had apologized Tuesday for the burning of books, including Qurans, that had been pulled from the shelves of a detention center library adjoining Bagram air base because they contained extremist messages or inscriptions.

The White House later echoed military officials and said the burning of Qurans and other Islamic reading material that had been tossed in a pile of garbage was an accident.

At the demonstration Wednesday in Kabul, the city's police chief Mohammad Ayub Salangi arrived at the scene with hundreds of reinforcements in an effort to bring the crowd under control.

A doctor at Kabul's Wazir Akbar Khan hospital said at least 10 protesters had been brought to the hospital with gunshot wounds. The doctor, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, said one of the wounded was in critical condition.

Several miles (kilometers) away, hundreds were also gathered outside Camp Phoenix, a U.S. military base, and were hurling rocks at the installation, said Kabul provincial police spokesman Ashmatullah Stanekzai. There were reports that shots were also heard near Camp Phoenix.

Stanekzai said another smaller and peaceful demonstration with just over 100 people was taking place in western Kabul near the capital's university.

Police in eastern Jalalabad city said that thousands were gathering in parts of that city to demonstrate against the burnings.

After the Quran burning incident was made public Tuesday, more than 2,000 Afghans protested outside the Bagram Air Base near the capital. The incident took place late Monday, when Afghan workers saw soldiers dumping the books in a pit where garbage is burned and noticed the Qurans and other religious books among the trash.

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Associated Press writers Amir Shah and Patrick Quinn contributed from Kabul.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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