Five dead in second day of Afghan Koran burning protests

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, (Reuters) – At least five  people have been killed in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar,  on a second day of violent protests over the burning of a Koran  by an obscure U.S. pastor, a health official and government  spokesman said today.
A suicide attack also hit a NATO military base in the  capital Kabul, the day after protesters over-ran a UN mission in  the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif and killed seven foreign  staff, in the worst ever attack on the UN in Afghanistan.
Four dead bodies brought to a hospital in Kandahar city, the  spiritual heartland of the Taliban, showed signs they had been  beaten and hit with stones said Abdul Qayum Pukhla, the senior  health official for the province.
A band of around 150 men who had taken to the streets to  denounce Koran burning set tyres alight, smashed up shops and  attacked a photographer, Reuters’ witnesses said.
The reporter was hit over the head and had his camera taken  from him and smashed, by protesters who discussed killing him.  Police kept other journalists from approaching the crowd, which  was shouting slogans including “death to America”.
The spokesman for the governor of Kandahar province said the  protest was organised by the Taliban who used the Koran burning  as an excuse to incite violence in a city where their reach has  been curtailed by an aggressive NATO-led military campaign.
“The demonstration in Kandahar was planned by insurgents to  take advantage of the situation and to create insecurity,” said  Zalmay Ayoubi, spokesman for the Kandahar provincial governor.  He put the toll at five and said 46 people had been wounded.
In Kabul today, a small group of burkha-clad  insurgents attacked a coalition base, although they caused only  light injuries to three soldiers, police and NATO-led troops  said.
More protests are possible across volatile and deeply  religious Afghanistan, where anti-Western sentiment has been  fuelled for years by civilian casualties.
Around 1,000 people protested peacefully in the northern  province of Tahar, said Shah Jahan Noori, provincial police  chief.

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