JNN 24 Feb 2012 Kabul : Hundreds of thousands of Muslims have held demonstrations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Malaysia and Bangladesh over the burning of copies of Holy Quran by the U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.
Anti-U.S. protesters tried to storm a U.S. consulate and march on NATO headquarters in Kabul on Friday as demonstrations over the Quran desecration pushed into a fourth day, AFP reported.
Afghan officials said nine people died Friday, seven of them in the relatively peaceful western province of Herat, where the assault was made on the consulate in the capital.
Friday’s deaths bring to at least 24 the number of people killed since Tuesday at anti-U.S. protests over the burning of the copies of Holy Quran at the U.S. airbase of Bagram, north of the capital.
U.S. President Barack Obama was Thursday forced to apologize for the incident. But the protesters have refused to accept Obama’s apology.
The Quran desecration has inflamed anti-Western sentiment already smoldering over abuses by U.S.-led foreign troops, such as the release last month of a video showing U.S. Marines urinating on the dead bodies of Afghans.
In Herat city, three people died as protesters surged towards the U.S. consulate while four more were killed elsewhere in the province, provincial spokesman Moheedin Noori told AFP.
“Seven people were killed and 50 others were injured — mostly in gunfire — across Herat province,” said Noori.
Another protester was shot dead and two were wounded when demonstrators tried to overrun the Czech-led military-civilian provincial reconstruction team in northeastern Baghlan province, provincial governor Abdul Majeed said.
In Kabul, AFP photographers saw two bodies at one of multiple protest sites, but an interior ministry spokesman said only that three people were wounded.
The protests flared after Friday prayers, where prayer leaders condemned “Infidels” for the desecration of the Holy Book.
“Those who have committed this crime should be identified and should be publicly executed,” said Mullah Mohammad Ayaz Niazi at Kabul’s Wazir Akbar Khan mosque.
“You have not just betrayed a nation, but you have played with the faith and sentiments of 1.7 billion Muslims worldwide and you have trampled their Holy Book,” he said, while urging that any protests should be peaceful.
Rallies also broke out in northern Kunduz province, as well in central Bamiyan and Ghazni and eastern Nangarhar, where one person died, AFP correspondents said.
Two U.S. soldiers were shot dead by an Afghan soldier at a protest on Thursday. French, Norwegian and U.S. military bases also came under attack, after the Taliban exhorted their countrymen to kill foreign troops in revenge.
The U.S. embassy in Kabul has been in lockdown for days, while extra security forces are protecting foreign missions and other strategic places, some armed with rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine-guns.
In Pakistan, a massive demonstration was held on Friday in Peshawar where protesters denounced the desecration of the Holy Book.
They set fire to an effigy of the U.S. President Barack Obama and shouted anti-U.S. slogans.
“The ugly face of the United States has been revealed with the desecration of Holy Quran,” a banner read.
In the capital Islamabad, the general secretary of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) told the crowd that the Islamic world should review its relations with the United States.
“We will not allow Americans to ridicule our religion and our Holy Quran,” Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri told the crowd, asking the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) to convene a special session to condemn the incident.
In Karachi, hundreds of activists of Jamaat-ud-Dawa chanted “Death to America”.
“There is just one remedy for America — jihad and only jihad,” the crowd shouted. “Death to America, death to America’s friends,” echoed slogans.
The demonstrators were carrying flags with black and white stripes and inscribed with Quranic verses.
They also held up banners, one of which said: “The defeated Americans are bound to bite dust in their war against Allah and His Book.”
“We don’t accept Obama’s apology. The Muslims don’t accept his apology, as it is nothing but a farce,” said Naveed Qamar, the head of JuD in Karachi.
“The Americans are deliberately provoking us through shameless sins,” he added.
“It is now up to our rulers whether they continue to be slaves of America or become slaves of our beloved prophet.”
In Malaysia, people demonstrated outside the U.S. Embassy in the capital, Kuala Lumpur. They carried banners that read “Respect Quran” and “Damn You, U.S. Army,” and shouted other anti-U.S. slogans.
Malaysians denounced the sacrilege of the Holy Book and demanded that the United States prevents the repetition of the incident.
Another similar protest was held in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.