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Deadly protests flare up in Kandahar after Koran burning

The Globe and Mail- Susan Sachs

Kabul— Globe and Mail Update
Published Saturday, Apr. 02, 2011 8:31AM EDT
Last updated Saturday, Apr. 02, 2011 10:52AM EDT

New and deadly protests over the burning of a Koran flared up on Saturday in the city of Kandahar, a day after riots in northern Afghanistan left seven United Nations employees and four Afghans dead.

Nine people were killed and at least 90 injured in Kandahar as mobs roamed the city smashing shop windows, burning cars and vandalizing a girls’ high school, according to local officials.

The protests were fuelled by anger that an obscure Florida pastor made a show of destroying a Koran last month. But their violence in Kandahar and, a day earlier, in the normally peaceful city of Mazar-i-Sharif demonstrated how quickly any large gathering in Afghanistan can bring anti-Western sentiment boiling to the surface.

A spokesman for the Kandahar provincial governor blamed Taliban insurgents and sympathizers for infiltrating the protest, which began with a march of about 100 stick-wielding men and boys and ballooned to a mob of several thousand over the course of the morning.

Afghan police and American soldiers fought back a crowd that tried to storm a complex of government buildings in Kandahar, a stronghold of the insurgency that has seen a string of assassinations of local officials and suicide bombings in the past two months.

Many of the people injured were beaten and stoned by the protesters when they refused to join in the rampage, according to witnesses and hospital officials.

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