Death toll climbs on Day 6 of Afghan rage over Koran burning
26 Feb, 2012 16:08
At least two Afghans have been killed and seven NATO soldiers wounded as protests rocked the country for a sixth day. The unrest has already left more than 30 people dead and hundreds injured.
President Hamid Karzai appealed to the public, calling for the violence to end. He "condemned with the strongest words" the treatment of Islam's holy book and said the perpetrators must be punished, but still called for peace. The Afghan president has repeatedly urged an end to the violence, but it was his first direct televised appeal on the issue.But despite Karzai's pleas for calm, thousands of angry Afghans still gathered to protest all across the country, causing tensions to flare. A grenade was thrown into a NATO base in northern Kunduz province, with the Alliance so far saying there have been no casualties. However several NATO personnel were injured, with Afghan officials reporting the number of wounded at a total of seven.At least one demonstrator was killed and others wounded in the Iman Sahib district of Kunduz, as protesters tried to enter the main city. And some 4,000 people took to the streets in Aybal, northern Samangan province, attacking a police station and a US base.The riots came a day after two U.S. military advisers were found shot dead in their office at the Interior Ministry in the heart of the capital, Kabul. The building is one of the city's most heavily guarded, and the killings raised doubts about safety as coalition troops continue their withdrawal.The burning of the Koran, which happened last week, has inflamed anti-Western sentiment already smoldering over abuses by US-led foreign troops. The incident took place at the Bagram military base, where the Koran and other sacred texts that were reportedly seized from arrested Afghans were held. The burning was nothing more that an accident, said NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) commander. General John Allen told reporters the texts had been confiscated from the detainee center's library, as they allegedly had "extremist inscriptions" on some of the pages. US troops suspected that those books were being used in order to “facilitate extremist communications." As the international incident began to spiral out of control, US President Barack Obama sent an official letter of apology to his Afghan counterpart. "I convey my deepest sympathies and ask you and the people to accept my deepest apologies,” the letter read. NATO officials made their apologies immediately after the incident, but this did not prevent riots breaking out the country.But America's top diplomat in Afghanistan said the violence would not change Washington's course ."Tensions are running very high here, and I think we need to let things calm down, return to a more normal atmosphere, and then get on with business," Ambassador Ryan Crocker told CNN's State of the Union. "This is not the time to decide that we're done here," he added.