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Last Updated: Friday, 13 May, 2005, 16:15 GMT 17:15 UK
Nine killed as Afghans rage at US
Students from Kabul University burn a US flag
Burning the US flag - protesters vent their frustration
At least nine more people - including civilians and policemen - have been killed in a fourth day of anti-US protests in Afghanistan, officials say.

The BBC's Andrew North in Kabul says the violence appears to be spreading with reports of disturbances coming from across the country.

Many demonstrations started after traditional Friday prayer meetings.

The protests started after a report that US guards at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre desecrated the Koran.

Newsweek magazine reported on 9 May that interrogators at Guantanamo Bay placed Korans on toilets to upset suspects, and in one case "flushed a holy book down the toilet".

'Angry crowd'

Police officers are reported to be among four dead in Ghazni province, 150km south-west of the capital, Kabul, after security forces clashed with protesters.

Interior ministry spokesman Lutfullah Mashal told the BBC that some of the demonstrators involved in the Ghazni protest were armed with AK 47s and handguns.

"They tried to attack the governor's house and office", he said, "and fired on police and afghan army troops."

Another three people were killed in the north-eastern province of Badakhshan after police opened fire on what reports described as a large group of protesters who were shouting "Death to America!".

"It's like a tsunami, anything can happen. It's difficult to predict," provincial police chief Shah Jahan Noori told Reuters news agency, adding that demonstrators had fired on aid agency offices.

We respect the Koran and support those who demonstrate but we want peaceful demonstrations
Sibghatullah Mojaddedi

Security sources say one person was killed in the city of Gardez south-east of Kabul and another protester shot in the north-western town of Qal-e-now.

US forces are reported to have gone to the aid of a UN compound in Gardez when it was besieged by demonstrators.


In Kabul though, imams preaching to Friday worshippers called for calm, saying it was acceptable to demonstrate over the allegations of the Koran being abused but not to resort to violence.

"We respect the Koran and support those who demonstrate," Sibghatullah Mojaddedi, who heads the country's peace and reconciliation commission, told worshippers in Kabul's main Blue Mosque.


Friday's deaths come after seven people were killed in protests on Wednesday and Thursday.

Insulting the Koran or the Prophet Muhammad is regarded as blasphemy and punishable by death in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

'Deep indignation'

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has promised prompt action if allegations of desecration of the Koran at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp prove to be true.

Friday prayers in Kabul
Clerics in Kabul urged non-violent protests

The Saudi government has voiced "deep indignation" at the reported desecration, while the Pakistani foreign minister said that if reports from Guantanamo are true, those responsible should be severely punished.

Pakistan's powerful opposition Islamic coalition called for protests after Friday prayers but in the main cities only small crowds turned out.

The US is holding about 520 inmates at Guantanamo Bay, many of them al-Qaeda and Taleban suspects captured in Pakistan and Afghanistan following the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US and subsequent US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

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