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At Least Five Killed in Violent Afghanistan Protests Over Koran Abuse at Guantanamo


University students march in the steets of Jalalabad
At least five people have been killed and dozens injured in Afghanistan after security forces clashed with thousands of protesters angry about a magazine report of alleged abuse of the Koran at the U.S. jail in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The State Department said Tuesday such abuse would be reprehensible and contrary to U.S. policy.

Outraged protesters in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad set fire to the governor's office while chanting "death to America" and "death to Karzai," Afghanistan's U.S.-backed president.

Witnesses say police and U.S. troops opened fire when protesters began ransacking U.N. offices and diplomatic facilities.

Protests in several Afghan cities were sparked by a Newsweek magazine report that U.S. soldiers had placed a copy of the Koran on a toilet during an interrogation of a Muslim inmate at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Demonstrators say they want the United States to apologize and release prisoners held in Cuba.

This protester says they cannot tolerate this American act of abuse. America, he says, is disrespecting his religion.

Coalition forces spokesman in Afghanistan Colonel James Yonts says the allegations are being investigated and any desecration of the Koran would be contrary to U.S. policy.

"We are taking this serious," said Colonel Yonts. "We are investigating this to see if, in fact, it has happened, and, if so, to put in place the procedures that it will not happen again."

But there are concerns that the protests could spread. Analysts say hard-line Muslim insurgents could use the allegations to fan anti-U.S. and anti-government sentiment.

Around 17,000 U.S. troops have been stationed in Afghanistan since a U.S.-led coalition ousted the hard-line Taleban regime in 2001.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai says the country's new institutions are not ready to handle demonstrations like the one on Wednesday. He told officials in Europe that Afghanistan will need security assistance for many years.

Mr. Karzai is in Brussels this week, meeting with European Union and NATO officials to press his case for greater international aid for Afghanistan.

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