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Wednesday, 26 September, 2001, 12:37 GMT 13:37 UK
Afghans torch US embassy
Protesters outside the embassy
Kabul police say demonstrators overwhelmed them
Pro-Taleban demonstrators have set fire to cars and buildings in the vacant US embassy compound in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

The United States wants to burn our country, so we burned their embassy

Demonstrator Hafiz Ullah
The blaze was started during protests over possible American military action against Afghanistan, which is sheltering Saudi-born militant Osama Bin Laden - the man suspected by the US of masterminding the devastating attacks on New York and Washington.

Firefighters eventually brought the fire under control, but only after Taleban forces had pushed back the protesters.

The embassy has been vacant since 1989, although some Afghan staff have been retained for maintenance and other limited duties.

Kabul police chief Mullah Mohammad Yunus told the French news agency AFP that 12 of his officers had been injured trying to contain the riot.

"We did our best to avoid this but the number of demonstrators meant we could not," he said. "There were thousands of them."

Several protesters are said to have sustained minor injuries when they were trampled during the rush into the embassy compound.

'Signal to Washington'

One of the demonstrators, Hafiz Ullah, 38, said the protest had been intended to send a signal to Washington.

"We did a good job," Mr Ullah, a shopkeeper, told AFP. "The United States wants to burn our country, so we burned their embassy."

The US has threatened to strike back against the Taleban for harbouring Bin Laden.

Reports say the demonstration was the biggest show of anti-US feeling in Kabul since the current crisis started with the terror attacks earlier this month.

But the BBC Afghanistan correspondent, Kate Clark, says no demonstrations are held in the capital without the approval and support of the Taleban authorities.

Witnesses said most of the demonstrators were government officials and students.

The BBC's Jackie Rowland
reports from Northern Afghanistan
The BBC's Adam Mynott
"Anyone found communicating with the outside world will be executed"
See also:

26 Sep 01 | South Asia
UN plea for open Afghan borders
25 Sep 01 | South Asia
Afghan ex-king meets top US official
25 Sep 01 | South Asia
Pakistan warns of Afghan instability
25 Sep 01 | South Asia
Taleban face total isolation
26 Sep 01 | South Asia
Pakistan refuses to open borders
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