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Afghanistan

Deadly protests in Afghan city Kandahar after Koran burning

Reuters/Stringer

Nine people have died in Afghanistan in new protests against the burning of the Koran by a preacher in a small Florida church last Sunday. The deaths come a day after seven UN staff were killed by a mob in the worst attack on the world body in the country since the 2001 invasion. 

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The fresh protests started from the centre of the main southern city of Kandahar and spread to other locations as police clashed with crowds marching towards the UN offices and provincial administration headquarters. Chanting "Death to America" and "Death to Karzai", the protestors also damaged government and private buildings and torched vehicles.

Kandahar is the spiritual heartland of the Taliban who have fought an insurgency against President Hamid Karzai's government in Kabul and its Western allies.

On Friday, three Europeans and four Nepalese guards, all UN employees, were killed during similar demonstrations in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. The attackers broke away from a large demonstration in the city against the Koran burning. UN peacekeeping chief, Alain Le Roy said they were clearly armed.

"They stormed into the building and set it on fire," he explained, "the security guards, who were the Gurkhas, tried their best but their numbers were so high that they were not able to prevent it."

He denied reports that two of the dead were beheaded but said one victim had his throat cut.

US President Barack Obama has condemned the attack in the strongest possible terms while UN chief Ban Ki-moon said it was "an outrageous and cowardly attack".

The 15-nation UN Security Council has held a special meeting on the incident calling on the Afghan government to step up protection for UN staff.

Before Friday's violence, Kabul had condemned the burning of the Koran at the Dove World Outreach Center, an evangelical church in Gainesville, Florida, calling it an effort to incite tension between religions.

Church head pastor, Terry Jones, told the French News Agency that the church did not feel responsible for the attack.

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