By Ria Novosti
More than 100 people have died in violence in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, where eyewitnesses say police are firing on crowds with automatic weapons.
A source in Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry told RIA Novosti on Sunday that the death toll had passed 100 in riots over the public burning of a Quran by a U.S. pastor.
Fighting is going on outside a government building and the city’s fifth district is littered with bodies. Police say the protesters have been joined by Taliban militants.
Eyewitnesses told RIA Novosti by telephone that police had opened fire on a crowd that tried to storm a UN office, located next to a government building.
“A machine gun is being fired, there are a lot of victims,” one person said.
Police in Kandahar said earlier in the day that they prevented an attempted attack on a UN office, killing nine attackers.
Protests over a public burning of Islam’s holy book held by radical Christian preacher Terry Jones grew into riots on Friday.
The violence started in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif, where seven UN workers and four protesters died when a mob stormed a United Nations office. It moved on Saturday to the southern city of Kandahar, continuing on Sunday and spreading to Jalalabad in the east, where at least 20 people were killed.
U.S. President Barack Obama on Saturday called the killings “outrageous.”
“The desecration of any holy text, including the Quran, is an act of extreme intolerance and bigotry. However, to attack and kill innocent people in response is outrageous, and an affront to human decency and dignity,” Obama said in a statement released by the White House.
Russia on Friday condemned the “unacceptable” attack on the UN mission in Mazar-i-Sharif and demanded that measures be taken to stop violence against United Nations staff.