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9 more killed after burning of Koran

KABUL, Afghanistan — A second day of deadly violence over the burning of a Koran by a Florida pastor left at least nine people dead and more than 80 injured Saturday in Afghanistan.

Saturday's clashes between demonstrators and Afghan police took place in Kandahar, a southern city that's a Taliban stronghold.

On Friday in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, a mob of angry protesters raided the United Nations compound and killed 12 people, including seven foreign nationals working for the organization. They were protesting the burning of the Muslim holy book on March 20 by controversial pastor Terry Jones of Gainesville.

On Saturday, President Barack Obama expressed sympathy for the families of the U.N. attack.

"The desecration of any holy text, including the Koran, is an act of extreme intolerance and bigotry," he said in a statement. "However, to attack and kill innocent people in response is outrageous, and an affront to human decency and dignity."

Overall, violence has increased in Afghanistan in recent months, as Afghan security forces are preparing to take over security responsibilities from the U.S.-led NATO forces this summer.

The demonstration Saturday started around 8:30 a.m., said Fazel Ahmad Sherzad, the deputy police chief of Kandahar. He said demonstrators chanting anti-U.S. slogans were burning and looting shops. He blamed the Taliban for whipping up the anti-American sentiment.

"The Taliban insurgents are absolutely involved in this," he said.

A statement by the Kandahar governor's office said that nine protesters were killed and 81 injured. Seventeen people, including seven armed men, were arrested, the statement said.

There were also small, peaceful demonstrations Friday and Saturday in Kabul, the capital, and the eastern city of Herat.

Also Saturday, three suicide attackers who targeted a U.S. base in eastern Kabul were killed in the morning but failed to breach the compound, U.S. and Afghan officials said.

Capt. Ciro Parisi, a spokesman for the coalition, confirmed the attack and said three American soldiers were slightly wounded. He did not identify the wounded soldiers.

Envoy describes deadly attack

Staffan de Mistura, the top U.N. envoy in Afghanistan, recounted the harrowing deaths of three U.N. staff members and four Nepalese guards to reporters on Saturday: Fearing for their lives, the workers dashed into a dark bunker Friday, hoping to escape the mob of about 3,000 Afghan protesters. They were hunted down and brutally slain. "They were killed when they were running out of the bunker," said de Mistura. One worker survived, "because he pretended to be a Muslim." Two U.N. workers died of bullet wounds. The third was killed with a knife. The Nepalese guards were shot. De Mistura placed direct blame on those who burned the Koran in Florida for stoking antiforeign sentiment. He also said the U.N. building would not have been attacked if there was an adequate cordon of Afghan police.

Deaths

As of Saturday, 1,414 U.S. troops have died in the war in Afghanistan. Identifications as reported by the U.S. military and not previously published:

Army Spc. Justin D. Ross, 22, Green Bay, Wis.; small-arms fire March 26; Helmand province.

9 more killed after burning of Koran 04/02/11 [Last modified: Saturday, April 2, 2011 11:55pm]
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