By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — At least five people have been killed and dozens wounded in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, where about 2,000 people took to the streets to condemn the reported burning of a Koran in a small U.S. church.
The rally started around 9 a.m. in the city’s Shahidan area,
Reporting from the scene: RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Sadeq Rishtinai said that the protesters were throwing stones at police and foreign troops. He said they “also attacked journalists, and a few reporters were beaten up.”
Rishtinai said there was a heavy police presence in the city. Police fired into the air trying to block the protesters moving toward the local administration headquarters and the UN office.
Hospital officials told our correspondent that over 45 people were injured during the demonstration.
12 Dead In Northern City
The rally in Kandahar comes a day after eight UN employees were killed by an angry mob in similar protests in the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif.
Four Afghan protesters were also killed in the violent demonstration in the relatively peaceful city, the capital of Balkh Province.
Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry sent a special, high-ranking delegation to Mazar-e Sharif today to investigate the violent protests in the city, the ministry’s spokesman Zmarai Bashari told correspondents in Kabul.
Local police estimated that about 5,000 people took part in the rally to condemn the burning of a Koran in the United States, he said.
“After Friday Prayers people headed toward the UN office and on the way the rally turned violent,” Bashari said. “Unfortunately, the violence resulted in casualties, it caused loss of lives. As for other damage, seven vehicles, including a police vehicle, were set on fire.”
The mob then broke into the UN office, killing four Nepalese guards and three civilian personnel, including a Norwegian pilot and a Swedish lawyer. A third staffer killed in the attack was reported to be a Romanian citizen.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, U.S. President Barack Obama, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai all condemned the killings.
The burning of a copy of Koran reportedly occurred on March 20 in a small Florida church. The pastor of the church, Terry Jones, outraged millions of Muslims last year when he announced plans to set fire to copies of the Koran on September 11.
Afghans learned about last month’s reported Koran-burning when Karzai condemned the desecration of the Muslim holy book a few days afterward.
Protests over the Koran burning have also taken place in the northern town of Sheberghan and the western city of Herat, but demonstrations there were peaceful.
Alem Rahmanyar, a Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent in Sheberghan, said some 1,000 people marched in the city on April 1, condemning the desecration of the Koran and demanding an apology from the pastor.
“The city was under tightened security measures,” Rahmanyar said. “The demonstration lasted for two hours, during, which all shops were closed. The protesters dispersed peacefully.”
Addul Munir, a protester in Sheberghan, said, “Such rallies will continue in Afghanistan until the U.S. pastor offers his apology to all Muslims in the world.”
written by Farangis Najibullah, with reporting by RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan correspondents in Kabul, Kandahar, and Sheberghan