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News from Afghanistan: Quran burning and other news

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  • Zafar Khan
    Afghanistan Koran protests: UN compound in Kunduz set alight 25 February 2012 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-17163315 Part of a UN compound in the Afghan
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 25, 2012
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      Afghanistan Koran protests: UN compound in Kunduz set alight
      25 February 2012


      Part of a UN compound in the Afghan city of Kunduz has been set alight amid fresh protests against the burning of the Koran by US soldiers.

      Four people were killed and dozens injured in clashes in the city, according to local doctors. Three more people were killed in the southern province of Logar.

      More than 20 have died since the protests began on Tuesday.

      On Friday Nato's Afghanistan commander Gen John Allen had appealed for calm.

      US personnel apparently inadvertently put the books into a rubbish incinerator at Bagram air base, near Kabul.

      'Bloody clothes'
      A group of 500 demonstrators attacked police defending the UN compound with stones, metal sticks and sharp objects, the deputy chief of police in northeastern Kunduz province said.

      "Then warning shots were fired. But they refused our warnings," he added.

      Eyewitnesses reported gunfire in the city and several buildings being set alight.

      "The demonstrators have burned several shops and part of a government building", a shopkeeper in Kunduz told the BBC.

      "[There is] a lot of gunfire going on. There is chaos. I have seen a lot of people with bloody clothes and bodies", he said.

      The governor's house in Laghman province also came under attack on Saturday.

      Eyewitnesses reported seeing smoke coming out of one of the building's security towers set alight by demonstrators.

      Elite Afghan forces then arrived to secure the compound.

      Doctors at Laghman hospital told the BBC that 21 people had been injured, two of them critically.

      Police had detained 17 armed men from among the demonstrators in Laghman, the provincial governor Mohammad Iqbal Azizi told reporters.

      Demonstrations were also reported by police and government officials in Paktia, Nangarhar and Sari Pul provinces.

      'Major error'
      Friday was the deadliest day of unrest so far. At least 12 people were killed across the country as mobs charged at US bases and diplomatic missions.

      Eight of the deaths reported on Friday were in western Herat province, which had seen little unrest previously.

      Earlier on Friday, Gen Allen called on "everyone throughout the country - Isaf [International Security Assistance Force] members and Afghans - to exercise patience and restraint as we continue to gather the facts".

      "Working together with the Afghan leadership is the only way for us to correct this major error and ensure that it never happens again," he said in a statement.

      US President Barack Obama has also apologised for the Koran-burning incident.

      In a letter to his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai, Mr Obama said the books had been "unintentionally mishandled".

      Muslims consider the Koran the literal word of God and treat each book with deep reverence.

      On Thursday the Taliban had called on Afghans to attack "invading forces" in revenge for "insulting" the Koran.

      Last year, at least 24 people died in protests across Afghanistan after a hardline US pastor burned a Koran in Florida.

      US soldiers shot in Afghan protests
      At least four killed and 34 wounded as protests erupt in several locations across country for fifth straight day.
      Last Modified: 25 Feb 2012 12:52


      Two US service men at the Afghan Ministry of Interior have been fatally shot in Kabul after protesters stormed the building in the Afghan capital.

      Saturday's shootings of the US service men, believed to be training the Afghan army at the time, brings the death toll of US forces to four after two US soldiers were shot in eastern Afghanistan on

      At least four people have been killed and 34 wounded as Afghans held protests for the fifth straight day against the burning of Qurans at a US-led base in the country, hospital officials have told Al Jazeera.

      Three of the protesters were killed at a protest outside a United Nations compound in Kunduz province on Saturday morning, hospital officials said. Thirty others were wounded in that protest, they said.

      The demonstration had initially been peaceful, but turned violent after protesters threw stones at government buildings and the UN office, said Sarwer Hussaini, a spokesman for the provincial police. He said police had fired into the air to disperse protesters.

      Denise Jeanmonod, a spokeswoman for UNAMA, the United Nations' mission in Afghanistan, confirmed the incident, saying that the organisation was "assessing the situation at the scene".

      Meanwhile, one person was killed and four others wounded during a protest in Logar province, south of Kabul, after hundreds of angry protesters took to the streets, clashing with security forces.

      Protests also erupted in several other provinces on Saturday, with demonstrations reported in Sar-e-pul and Nangarhar provinces. In Laghman province, a protest reportedly turned violent when about 1,000 protesters threw rocks at police and attempted to storm the governor's house.

      There were reports of casualties at that protest, but there was no immediate confirmation on the number of wounded.

      On Friday, protests across the country led to the deaths of 11 Afghans, including a protester who was shot dead in the capital Kabul. It was the deadliest day of protests since demonstrations began five days ago.

      Saturday's deaths bring the five-day total to 29 dead, including two US soldiers, and security forces remain on high alert.

      Friday protests

      Seven protesters were killed on Friday in the western city of Herat, where protesters tried to storm the US consulate. Another protester died in the Pol-e-Khomri area of northern Baghlan province. Two deaths were also reported in the eastern province of Khost.

      Hundreds of demonstrators marched toward the palace of Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, chanting "Death to America!", prompting security forces to fire into the air in an attempt to disperse them.

      Demonstrations were reported in several locations across the country, including Ghazni, Nangarhar, Paktia, Kunar, Bamiyan and Khost.

      "Although peaceful demonstrations are the right of people, we strongly urge our countrymen to fully avoid turning them into violent ones," Sediqqi said earlier in the day.

      'Irresponsible actors'

      Speaking to Al Jazeera in Kabul, Afghan political analyst Haseeb Humayoon said the rising death count in the protests showed "the room for error is reducing" for international forces in the country.

      Humayoon also said "some very irresponsible actors in the political arena do actually use this for very minor, very small political ends of their own".

      US President Barack Obama has sent a letter to Karzai, apologising for the unintentional burning of the Qurans at the Bagram air base. Afghan labourers found charred copies of the Muslim holy book while collecting rubbish at the base.

      Two US soldiers were also killed on Thursday when an "individual wearing the Afghan army uniform" opened fire on them at a military base in Khogyani, in eastern Nangarhar province.

      In a speech to soldiers at that same base, US General John Allen, commander of ISAF and US forces in Afghanistan, told the soldiers they must move beyond the deaths to continue on their mission in the central Asian nation.

      "We're here for our friends. We're here for our partners. We're here for the Afghan people ... Now is how we show the Afghan people that as bad as that act was at Bagram, it was unintentional and Americans and ISAF soldiers do not stand for this" Allen said.

      On Thursday, the Taliban had called on Afghans to "turn their guns on the foreign infidel invaders", but went on to say that negotiations with the US in Qatar would not be affected by the call to arms against foreign forces.

      The Afghan government says that it wants those responsible for the burning to be tried publicly.

      Afghan violence rages over Quran burning
      Obama issues apology and two US soldiers die while Afghan government demands trial and punishment for those responsible.
      Last Modified: 23 Feb 2012 17:43


      In Kabul, Afghan police sympathize with protesters angry over Koran burning


      Outrage in Afghanistan as foreign forces burn Koran
      Commander forced into grovelling apology in attempt to placate 3,000-strong mob


      Clashes in Afghanistan over 'Quran burning'
      At least seven dead in latest clashes after US apologises over reports copies of Quran were burnt at NATO base.
      Last Modified: 22 Feb 2012 14:06


      Quran Burning Incites Deadly Riots in Afghanistan
      By HEIDI VOGT and RAHIM FAIEZ Associated Press
      KABUL, Afghanistan February 22, 2012 (AP)


      Kabul digs deep to restore grand palaces – and pride
      Public asked to donate to renovate historic buildings badly damaged during decades of conflict in Afghanistan
      Jon Boone in Kabul
      guardian.co.uk, Friday 10 February 2012 16.00 GMT


      Few buildings in Kabul are as iconic, or tragic, as Darulaman Palace in the south-west of the Afghan capital.

      For decades the symbol of Afghanistan's early 20th-century efforts to join the modern world has lain in ruin after being blasted to pieces during years of civil conflict. The hulking wreck, sitting at the end of what should be the city's grandest boulevard, is roofless, gutted and riddled with bullet holes.

      Now Kabul council's bosses say the city is so ashamed of the state of such a landmark that they are asking for public contributions to restore Darulaman and two other nearby palaces.

      Billboards asking for donations have gone up around the city, while collection boxes and leaflets have been placed at all government ministries. Some businesses have given tens of thousands of dollars.

      "Even if they only give 10 afghanis, that will be a enough," said Khogman Ulomi, the deputy mayor, referring to a sum of money equivalent to about 10p. "People are ashamed of what has happened to their city and the fact the world only thinks of war when they see Afghanistan. We want to rebuild these palaces exactly as they were before."

      Despite being nowhere near the target of $30m (£19m), the city has already started replanting the ornamental gardens that surround the raised palace.

      It is all part of an incredibly ambitious campaign to modernise and beautify a city which in 30 years has transformed from being a small and pleasant mountaintop town to a booming, overpopulated sprawl that suffers some of the worst air pollution in the world. The city's mayor has won plaudits from international donors for his efforts to refurbish roads and plant thousands of trees around the capital.

      He hopes he can now persuade foreign backers to stump up for some prestige projects, including road transport tunnels to run under one of the hills that cut the city in half. There are also plans for a cable car to carry sightseers up and over to an area near the zoo, which the mayor hopes to enlarge and improve.

      Attention to the palaces is long overdue, not least because they sit next to a new complex that will soon house the country's parliament.

      The buildings are also loaded with Afghanistan's tragic 20th-century history, as they are a symbol of King Amanullah who built Darulaman – the "Abode of Peace" – in the 1920s as part of his ill-fated campaign to modernise the country, which ran into fierce opposition from rural and religious leaders.

      The Tajbeg Palace, next to Darulaman, was where the opening shots were fired during the Soviet invasion on 27 December 1979, the day when Soviet troops stormed the palace and killed Hafizullah Amin, the communist president who had displeased Moscow.

      The buildings were badly damaged by rockets in 1990 when the communist regime defended itself against a coup attempt by the defence minister.

      It was further wrecked by rival factions fighting over the control of the city after the communists were finally toppled in 1992.

      Afghan civilian death toll reaches record high
      • UN report says 3,021 civilians killed in 2011
      • 8% increase on 2010 and fifth consecutive rise
      • Number of suicide bombings static but toll rises 80%
      Damien Pearse and agencies
      guardian.co.uk, Saturday 4 February 2012 12.53 GMT


      The civilian death toll for the war in Afghanistan reached a record high last year with 3,021 deaths, according to the United Nations.

      The number killed rose by 8% last year – the fifth consecutive rise – with a further 4,507 civilians wounded, the UN report said. Many were killed by roadside bombs or in suicide attacks, with Taliban-affiliated militants responsible for three-quarters of the deaths.

      The number of deaths caused by suicide bombings jumped to 450, an 80% increase over the previous year, even though the number of suicide attacks remained about the same.

      "A decade after the war began, the human cost of it is still rising," said Georgette Gagnon, director for human rights for the UN mission in Afghanistan.

      The single deadliest suicide attack since 2008 occurred on 6 December, when a bomber detonated his explosives-filled vest at the entrance of a mosque in Kabul, killing 56 worshippers during the Shia Muslim rituals of Ashoura.

      Roadside bombs remain the biggest killer of civilians. The homemade explosives – which can be triggered by a footstep or a vehicle and are often rigged with enough explosives to destroy a tank – killed 967 people in 2011, nearly a third of the total.

      The figures come as Nato begins to map out plans for international troops to withdraw and hand over responsibility for security to Afghan security forces.

      The presence of western forces has managed to reduce civilian casualties in the troubled southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar. But the UN found that insurgents had focused instead on areas along the country's border with Pakistan. They were also relying more on roadside bombs and suicide attacks in places like bazaars, school grounds, footpaths and bus stations.

      "The tactics have changed," said Jan Kubis, the UN secretary general's special representative to Afghanistan. "The anti-government forces being squeezed in certain areas ... move to some other areas and again use these inhuman, undiscriminating weapons like human-activated explosive devices and suicide attacks."

      Kubis said the Taliban banned the use of land mines as "un-Islamic and anti-human" in 1998 when they ruled Afghanistan with their harsh interpretation of Islamic law. But the UN report said there was little difference between mines and the buried homemade bombs used by the Taliban. The majority of improvised devices have about 20kg (44lb) of explosives and are triggered when a person steps on, or a vehicle drives over rigged pressure plates.

      "These are basically land mines," Kubis said of the roadside bombs. "So why is this 'inhuman and un-Islamic' weapon being increasingly used?"

      The number of roadside bombs planted last year overwhelmed security forces' improved ability to detect and defuse them. An average of 23 roadside bombs a day were either detonated or discovered and defused last year, twice the daily average in 2010, the report said. Actual explosions increased by 6%.

      The UN attributed 77% of the deaths to insurgent attacks and 14% to actions by international and Afghan troops. The cause of the remaining 9% were classified as unknown.

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      Caroline Brothers
      The Observer, Sunday 29 January 2012


      France suspends all Afghanistan training operations over troop killings
      Nicolas Sarkozy also threatens to pull the French army out of Afghanistan early after an Afghan soldier shot dead four soldiers
      Angelique Chrisafis in Paris
      guardian.co.uk, Friday 20 January 2012 10.37 GMT


      France is suspending military training operations in Afghanistan and considering whether to withdraw its entire force early after four French soldiers were killed by an Afghan soldier in the Taghab valley of eastern Kapisa province.

      The shootings on Friday were the latest of several in which western soldiers have been killed by members of the Afghan security forces, undermining trust in the runup to the withdrawal of foreign combat troops in 2014.

      The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, announced that France would temporarily stop all its training operations and co-operation with Afghan troops. He immediately dispatched the French defence minister, Gerard Longuet, to Afghanistan to establish whether "conditions were safe" for French soldiers. He said if safe conditions were not clearly established France would consider an early withdrawal of all its troops from Afghanistan.

      "If the conditions of security are not clearly restored, then the question of an early withdrawal of the French army would arise," Sarkozy said.

      "The French army is in Afghanistan at the service of the Afghans against terrorism and against the Taliban. The French army is not in Afghanistan so that Afghan soldiers can shoot at them," he added.

      The French foreign minister, Alain Juppé, later said that while four French soldiers were killed, 15 more were wounded, eight of them seriously. He said "our soldiers are in Afghanistan to help the Afghan people and the Afghan army in their fight for freedom and democracy. It is incomprehensible and unacceptable that soldiers in the Afghan army murder French soldiers."

      He brushed aside the question that the issue of troops in Afghanistan might be being used for electoral purposes, three months before Sarkozy stands for re-election, saying the soldiers' deaths were "a tragedy".

      He said France now wanted "credible assurance" from the Afghan government that it had stepped up security in its recruitment process to the Afghan army and that French troops were safe. If not, France would consider pulling troops out early.

      A total of 82 French soldiers have died in Afghanistan since the start of the conflict in 2001. There are currently 3,600 French troops in the country and a large part of their role is training the Afghan army.
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