KABUL: Afghans protested violently for the third day on Sunday despite a US pastor giving up plans to burn copies of the Quran, with three other cases of desecration of the Muslim holy book likely to stoke their anger further.
Two protesters were shot and killed in eastern Logar province, a district official said, taking to three the death toll in protests staged since Friday.
The furore over pastor Terry Jones’s plans to burn copies of the Quran overshadowed the lead-up to commemorations for the Sept. 11 hijacked airliner attacks on the United States.
Word of the intention to burn the Quran had already triggered outrage in Afghanistan and across the Muslim world.
President Barack Obama warned it could hurt the United States deeply abroad, endanger US troops in Afghanistan and risk attacks in US and European cities.
In Afghanistan, angry protesters chanting “Death to America” and “Death to Christians” before clashing with security forces in Logar, south of the capital.
Seven demonstrators were wounded, one seriously, when Afghan security forces opened fire to disperse hundreds of protesters marching to Pul-e-Alam, the capital of Logar, officials said.
Mohammad Rahim Amin, chief of Baraki Barak district just west of Pul-e-Alam, said two of the wounded died later in hospital.
The protesters threatened to attack foreign military bases.
There are almost 150,000 foreign troops fighting a growing Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan, where violence is at its worst.
“The governor must give us an assurance that the church is not going to burn the Quran, otherwise we will attack foreign troop bases in our thousands,” protester Mohammad Yahya said.
Major Patrick Seiber, a spokesman for the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan’s east, said ISAF was aware of more protests in Logar on Sunday, but put the crowd at about 100, some wielding sticks and throwing stones.
Four demonstrators were wounded in Logar on Saturday, a day after a protester was shot dead when an angry crowd attacked a German-run ISAF base in Faizabad in northeastern Badakhshan province, one of many protests across the country.
Protests had eased later on Sunday, but could spark up again as news filters through of reported desecrations of the Quran in the United States.
While Jones abandoned his plan, there were at least two incidents of abuse of the Quran in Lower Manhattan in New York on Saturday. Two evangelical preachers not affiliated with any mainstream church burned two copies of the Quran in Tennessee.
Protests over perceived desecration of Muslim symbols have led to dozens of deaths in Afghanistan in recent years, including after a Danish newspaper published a cartoon depicting the Prophet Mohammad in 2005.
On Thursday, the United Nations’ top diplomat in Afghanistan said the protests risked delaying Afghanistan’s Sept. 18 parliamentary election.
The election is seen as a key test of stability in Afghanistan before Obama conducts a strategy review of the increasingly unpopular war in December.
Obama, who has sought to improve ties with the Muslim world frayed by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since the Sept. 11 attacks, stressed religious tolerance in remarks at a memorial service in Washington on Saturday. – Reuters