KANDAHAR, (AFP) — Five people were killed during protests in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar on Saturday against the burning of a Koran in the US, officials said.
The demonstration came a day after seven UN staff were killed in an attack on their office in similar protests in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
The Kandahar protests began in the city centre and spread to other locations as police clashed with crowds marching towards the UN offices and provincial administration headquarters, witnesses said.
At least five people were killed and 45 others injured as more crowds entered the troubled city from the suburbs, a health ministry official in Kabul told AFP.
“The death toll is five, 45 others have been injured,” Kargar Noorughli, a public health ministry spokesman told AFP in Kabul.
Kandahar is the spiritual heartland of the Taliban, who have fought an insurgency against President Hamid Karzai’s government in Kabul and its Western allies since they were ousted by a US-led invasion in 2001.
“Death to America” and “Death to Karzai” chanted the demonstrators. “They have insulted our Koran,” shouted one.
An AFP reporter saw two unidentified bodies being removed by demonstrators in Chawk Saheedan, a central location where the protests started.
“I just saw two dead bodies being carried by some of the demonstrators. They said they were from the demonstration,” he said. The men did not provide further details, the reporter said.
Smoke was rising from different parts of the city as protesters burned cars and tyres, the reporter added.
“Another big crowd is coming from the eastern edges of the city. Heavy gunshots are still being heard.”
Zalmai Ayoubi, a spokesman for the provincial administration told AFP that “destructive elements have entered the crowds and are trying to turn it violent.”
The spokesman said all those killed and injured were from the crowds. He said several cars, a large bus and a girls’ school had been set ablaze by the protesters.
Police were preventing people from moving around the city.
Protesters mounting a similar demonstration Friday in Mazar-i-Sharif against the burning of a Koran at a church in Florida stormed a UN compound and killed seven staff, the worst attack on the world body in the country since the 2001 invasion.