KABUL, (Reuters) – Three people were shot dead by Afghan security forces on Saturday as protests over the burnings of the Muslim holy book at a NATO base raged for a fifth day, provincial officials and a Reuters witness said.
The burning of the Korans at the Bagram compound this week has deepened public mistrust of NATO forces struggling to stabilize Afghanistan before foreign combat troops withdraw by end-2014.
Despite an apology from U.S. President Barack Obama and a call for restraint from Afghan leader Hamid Karzai, thousands took to the streets after 12 people were killed and dozens wounded on Friday, the bloodiest day yet in demonstrations.
A protester was shot dead in Logar province south of Kabul after hundreds of protesters, many chanting “Death to America!” – a slogan heard at protests throughout the week — charged at police. Two people were wounded.
In the restive northern Kunduz province, two protesters were shot dead by Afghan security forces as they set alight shops and buildings, senior police detective Ghulam Mohn Farhad told Reuters. Several people were wounded.
Twenty people were wounded when demonstrators hurled stones in eastern Laghman province, health official Abdul Qayumi said.
The capital, Kabul, was calm, with police and security forces deployed across the city.
Muslims consider the Koran to be the literal word of God and treat each copy with deep reverence. Desecration is considered one of the worst forms of blasphemy.
The Koran burnings underscore the deep cultural divide that still exists more than 10 years after U.S. troops invaded to oust the Taliban and have deepened public mistrust of the West.
The protests could dent plans for a strategic pact that Washington is considering with Kabul, which would allow a sharply reduced number of Western troops to stay in the country, well beyond their combat exit deadline.