Tuesday, February 20, 2018

10 Afghans killed as anger spreads over burning of Korans

KABUL, Afghanistan — The anger over the U.S. military's burning of Korans this week claimed at least 10 more lives Friday as rage continued to explode across the country.

Ten Afghan civilians protesting the burnings died, most of gunshot wounds, although one protester was trampled to death, bringing the death toll since Tuesday, when the violence started, to at least 24, according to local officials and emergency room doctors.

An apology by President Barack Obama on Thursday failed to keep thousands off the streets in Kabul and around the country. In light of that apology, which was attacked by Republican critics, the United States postponed plans to apologize to the Pakistani government for the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers in November at a border base, in order to avoid further political fallout in an election year, a Defense Department official said.

After German soldiers were pelted with stones by a crowd in Takhar province, in northern Afghanistan, the German military decided to withdraw its soldiers from a small base there several weeks earlier than planned. The base had just 50 soldiers, so the withdrawal will have little impact, but the early departure appeared symbolic of a growing disengagement by members of the NATO coalition. France announced last month that it would bring home its troops in 2013, a year earlier than expected.

It was unclear Friday night whether, after four days of protests, the violence that has rolled through the country was finally spent or whether the Koran burning had uncorked a well of fury over the continuing presence of Western troops after 10 years of war.

The worst violence was in Herat province, in the west on the Iranian border, where seven people were killed. Several Heratis suggested that Iranian agents were at work behind the scenes.

Two protesters died in Khost province, near the Pakistan border, and one in Baghlan province.

In Kabul, despite larger numbers of protesters on the streets, only a handful were injured.

NATO said it is still investigating what led to the decision to burn the Korans and other religious texts.

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