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Deadliest Day In Week Of Afghan Protests

February 24, 2012

Reports from Afghanistan say at least 12 people have been killed after Friday Prayers during the deadliest day yet in protests over the burning of Korans at a NATO military base.

Protests also reportedly spread to Pakistan after Friday Prayer sermons by religious leaders there, with hundreds gathering in Islamabad, Karachi, and the central city of Multan.

Police say armed protesters took refuge in shops in eastern Kabul after killing one demonstrator on February 23. At another Kabul rally, police said they were unsure who fired shots that killed a second protester in the Afghan capital.

Seven more protesters were killed in the western province of Herat where about 500 demonstrators surged toward the U.S. consulate building. Two more were killed in the eastern Khost Province and one was killed in the northern province of Baghlan.

The latest killings raise the death toll at protests in Afghanistan to at least 27 since February 21 -- including two U.S. soldiers who were shot dead at a forward operating base in Nangahar Province on February 23 by an Afghan National Army soldier who turned his weapon on them.

'Not The Time For Revenge'

That incident prompted a visit to the base late on February 23 by the senior NATO commander in Afghanistan, U.S. General John Allen, to calm the troops there.

Allen told other U.S. soldiers that "now is not the time for revenge" for the deaths of the two U.S. soldiers, and he told them to resist whatever urge they might have to strike back.

Afghan National Army General Sher Muhammad Karimi traveled to the base with Allen, telling the U.S. soldiers that their sacrifice is not wasted. Karimi told the U.S. soldiers that the United States and Afghans together are "fighting an enemy of humanity."

In northern Afghanistan, Germany announced that it is withdrawing its troops early from an outpost at the town of Taloqan amid anti-foreigner unrest over the burning of Korans.

German Defense Ministry spokesman Stefan Paris said on February 24 that the German military had originally planned to shut down its base at Taloqan in late March.

But Paris said the regional commander has decided to immediately transfer the remaining 50 German soldiers in Taloqan to a larger base in Kunduz immediately.

German troops handed over security responsibility for the Taloqan area to Afghan authorities on February 15.

U.S. President Barack Obama has sent a letter of apology to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, saying the incident was a mistake and vowing to hold accountable whoever was responsible.

Karzai has blamed a U.S. military officer. The Taliban have rejected Obama's apology and called on Afghans to attack foreign troops.

With Reuters, AP, and AFP reporting


Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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