Afghan soldier kills 2 Nato troops

2012-02-23 16:06

Kabul - An Afghan soldier joined protests on Thursday against the burning of copies of the Qur'an at a Nato base and shot dead two foreign troops, Western military sources said, as the Taliban urged security forces to turn their guns on foreigners.

Protests against the burning of copies of Islam's most holy book drew thousands of angry Afghans to the streets, chanting "Death to America!" for the third consecutive day in violence that has killed 11 people and wounded many more.

The Taliban urged Afghans to target foreign military bases and kill Westerners in retaliation for the Qur'an burning at Bagram airfield on Tuesday, later directing its plea to the security forces, calling on them to "turn their guns on the foreign infidel invaders", it said on its site

In a demonstration in eastern Nangarhar province on Thursday, an Afghan soldier turned his gun on Nato soldiers, local officials and western military sources said. A provincial spokesperson said the soldier then escaped.

Nato confirmed a man in Afghan army uniform killed two of its troops in the east, but declined to say if the shooting was connected to the protests.

The Qur'an burnings at the vast Bagram base north of Kabul, which the United States has said were unintentional, could make it even more difficult for US-led Nato forces to win the hearts and minds of Afghans and bring the Taliban to the negotiating table ahead of the withdrawal of foreign combat troops by the end of 2014.

Apology from Obama

Muslims consider the Qur'an the literal word of God and treat each book with deep reverence. Desecration is considered one of the worst forms of blasphemy and there could be further trouble on Friday when congregational prayers are held.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he received a "deep apology" from his US counterpart Barack Obama on Thursday, the presidential palace said in a statement, adding that Obama described the Qur'an burning incident as "an accident".

A small protest of around 500 people also turned violent in the capital Kabul, with gunfire crackling above the city as police and plain-clothed intelligence officers charged demonstrators wearing bandanas and hurling rocks and sticks, firing low above their heads and sending them fleeing.

A wounded youth lay on the frozen asphalt on a road, blood pouring from his side. Crouched over and cradling him, a relative appealed to the government to not hurt its own people.

"Ministry of the Interior! Don't you see we are fighting Nato?" said the man, who did not give his name.

Masked men sped by on a motorcycle blasting a battle song played by the Taliban insurgency, while police in machine gun-mounted pick-up trucks picked up the wounded.

Soldiers confined to barracks

"Our brave people must target the military bases of the invaders, their military convoys and their invader forces," read an e-mailed Taliban statement released by the insurgency's spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid.

"They have to kill them [Westerners], beat them and capture them to give them a lesson to never dare desecrate the holy Qur'an again."

Most Westerners were already confined to their heavily fortified compounds, including within the sprawling US embassy complex and nearby embassies in central Kabul.

Around 400 protesters hurled rocks and set fire to cars at a Norwegian-led military base in Faryab province on the Turkmen border, which is centre for around 500 soldiers and civilians from Norway, Latvia, Macedonia, Iceland and the United States.

Norway's ambassador to Kabul, Tore Hattrem, said no one was hurt and there was minimal damage.

A small number of protesters in the eastern Kapisa province took aim at the French military base there, though police deterred them successfully, its police chief Abdul Hamid said.


The venting of fury could complicate efforts by US and Nato forces to reach agreement with the Afghan government on a strategic pact that would allow a sharply reduced number of Western troops to stay in the country, well beyond their combat exit deadline, to oversee Afghan forces.

Underscoring these concerns, hundreds of students in Jalalabad rejected any strategic pact with the United States, saying they would "take up jihad" if one were sealed.

The US government and the American commander of Nato-led forces in Afghanistan apologised for the burnings after Afghan labourers found charred copies of the Qur'an while collecting rubbish at Bagram.

A report into the incident by Nato investigators and a team of senior Afghan clerics was to be handed to Karzai as soon as Thursday.

Martine van Bijlert, from the respected Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN), said the demonstrations were a combination of religious outrage, pent-up frustration over economic and security conditions, and groups wanting to stir trouble.

"There have been different kinds of outrage. One is the bewilderment felt by many Afghans, and foreigners, that after ten years of efforts in Afghanistan there was apparently still no understanding of how inflammatory mistakes like that are made," van Bijlert said on the AAN website.

"Second, there is the pent-up anger and frustration with the international military, but also with life in general."

  • Bob - 2012-02-23 16:23

    Children. Thats the word I would use to describe religious people. Infantile in both their beliefs and, at times, their actions.

      Jameel - 2012-02-23 17:45

      Lee you pathetic their reading when it come to the Quraan its as good as anyone, just shows how much you really know ..

      Michael - 2012-02-23 19:00

      Good thing you are out of there Lee with your kind of attitude towards the local belief and culture.

      Fred - 2012-02-25 23:29

      Turkey, a country of 73 million Muslims, is the second-biggest member-country of Nato. Patrick, more and more misinformation and outright nonsense.

  • Garth - 2012-02-23 16:34

    America and the rest of the `west' are stupid. Pull out all your troops, dismantle your infrastructure, stop buying their oil and minerals and let them kill each other off. Then go in there and get everything cheap. It is simple - religious fools cannot resist killing each other off over differences of meaning from the same imaginations. Just leave them to their own idiotic devices and soon we shall be rid of them.

      Fred - 2012-02-23 19:28

      Ten years from now the US for one will be importing a fraction of their oil needs from the Middle East, if at all. This is one of the driving points of the Arab Spring: the unconscious realization that the US and developed nations are moving away from oil and the people of the Middle East have to be more self-reliant, not so dependent on paternalistic, despotic regimes with large sinhle-chanel cashflows, regimes that also lie, cheat, maim and kill. The decisions have been made. Oil imports by the developed world from the Middle East are going to drop dramatically in the foreseeable future.

  • Fred - 2012-02-23 19:21

    This is crazy, almost psychotic behavior. It has nothing to do with spirituality, the Divine, respect or honor. It's ugly violence by a crazy, mad group of people who are border-line human-beings, having only recently emerged from human-animals. They deserve empathy and compassion, and a firm NO!

  • Johann Enslin - 2012-02-23 22:47

    Cannot believe this was once part of the mighty Persian empire. Happens when you have loads of ignorance mixed with a religion. Should leave the place for the fundamentalist, they will decimate the population, nothing like those boys having fun.

      Riaad - 2012-02-23 23:10

      May I remind u that it is the US presence in Afghanistan that is causing all the trouble. US dollars are turning some Afghans against others. Invasion of another sovereign land is against international law. And may I remind you that prior to the Persians embracing Islam willingly, they were fire-worshipers who 'decimated' much of the known world at that time, including a no. of victories against the mighty Roman empire?

      Fred - 2012-02-23 23:31

      Riaad, you're a childlike person who likes to blame and not take responsibility. You're also very arrogant.

      Riaad - 2012-02-24 22:51

      Fred, you're in no position to judge. Allah will judge YOU, whether you believe in Him or not.

      Fred - 2012-02-25 23:30

      More arrogance from your Riaad. You have no right to impose your God onto anyone else. God is love and forgiveness, not judgment and retribution.

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