REPORTING FROM KABUL, AFGHANISTAN -- At least nine people were killed Friday in a fourth day of angry demonstrations over the burning of Korans at a U.S.-run military base in Afghanistan. Dozens more people were injured in the rioting, which spread to previously peaceful parts of the country.
The largest numbers of deaths -- seven -- took place in the normally quiet western city of Herat, Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry said. A heavy police presence kept the capital, Kabul, relatively calm despite the fact that large crowds gathered in several sites around the city following the main Muslim prayers of the week at noon on Friday.
Nearly all the deaths and injuries occurred in clashes between protesters and police, but some passers-by were also caught up in violence, and the police -- many ill-trained in crowd control -- were taking more casualties. The dead in Herat included a police officer.
Most of the protests took place near Western military bases or other foreign installations. Protesters gathered about 800 yards from the U.S. consulate in Herat, but a spokesman denied reports that the demonstrators had tried to storm the compound, or that anyone was shot in the vicinity.
The continuing violence came despite calls for calm from top Afghan government officials. Police in several areas said more and more gunmen were being spotted among the crowds, and suggested that Islamist militants might be using the protests as cover.
-- Hashmat Baktash
Photo: Anti-American protesters in central Kabul near the Afghan presidential palace on Friday. Credit: Ali Safe / MCT