Afghans Demonstrate Against Quran Burning
GUY RAZ, host:
Protests broke out in several cities in Afghanistan today. Demonstrators are angry over the burning of a Quran by a small, Christian movement in Florida. At least nine people were killed in those protests today.
Yesterday, in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif, a mob - also angered by that Quran burning - overran the U.N. headquarters and killed 12 people, including seven international U.N. workers.
NPR's Quil Lawrence is following this story for us from Kabul.
Quil, shock - obviously - over those killings at the U.N. headquarters. How is the U.N. in Afghanistan responding?
QUIL LAWRENCE: Well, I think they were, frankly, quite shocked even though it's not the first time that the U.N. has been attacked here. It's still not clear whether this was instigated by insurgents, or whether this was simply honest anger on the part of the public in Mazar-e-Sharif.
But they attacked - what almost everyone is recognizing - are people who had nothing to do, of course, with the burning of this Quran in Florida. And as you know, seven people were killed - seven U.N. staff were killed, and five demonstrators as well.
RAZ: Quil, I wonder, how was it so easy for them to get inside of that compound?
LAWRENCE: Apparently, it was just numbers that overwhelmed the guards. And again, this is not a compound that is on high alert, or in a city that's used to security threats. It's not in a - sort of security stance that places even here in the capital are, for example.
RAZ: What do you know about the other demonstrations that broke out throughout the day?
LAWRENCE: Well, there had been demonstrations in Kabul, in Herat and in Mazar-e-Sharif yesterday - Friday - after the Friday prayers, and the imams preached against it. The demonstrations in Kandahar today seemed almost to be in response.
Kandahar, of course, is the heartland of the Taliban, and many of the people demonstrating there were carrying white flags, the sign of the Taliban - and also slogans and posters saying Down with America, and chanting slogans against the Afghan government, which they see as closely aligned with America.
There were protests all over the city. There were clashes with security forces there. And at least nine people were killed, and scores were wounded, as well as many shops burned, cars burned. And in particular, they destroyed a girls' high school.
RAZ: That's NPR's Quil Lawrence, in the Afghan capital Kabul.
Quil, thanks very much.
LAWRENCE: Thank you, Guy.
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