KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghan soldiers fired on demonstrators trying to storm a government building to protest against a once-planned Quran burning in the U.S., and two protesters were killed, an Afghan official said. Four were injured.
The protesters in eastern Logar province Sunday chanted “Death to America” and burned tires, attacked several shops and set election campaign posters on fire, said Mohammad Rahim Amin, chief of Logar’s Baraki Barak district.
“I can say for sure that this was the work of the enemies of peace and stability in Afghanistan who are trying to use any opportunity to disrupt the security situation” in the country, Amin said.
Sunday was the third day that Afghans protested against the Quran burning despite the pastor’s decision to call it off, a decision many Afghans did not seem aware of in a country with limited media access. The other recent protests also targeted the pro-Western government.
Meanwhile, a Taliban commander who planned rocket attacks on polling stations during elections next week and four other insurgents were killed in eastern Afghanistan, NATO said Sunday.
The military alliance said NATO and Afghan forces killed the five insurgents Saturday night in a village compound in the eastern Nangarhar province. The insurgents were killed after they “displayed hostile intent” as the forces moved in on the compound, it said in a statement.
It said intelligence reports indicated the Taliban commander was planning to conduct rocket attacks on voting centers during the Sept. 18 parliamentary elections. The Taliban has vowed to target polling stations and warned Afghans not to participate in what it called a sham vote.
The government and its Western allies hope the elections for the lower house of parliament will help consolidate the country’s fragile democracy, leading to the withdrawal of the roughly 140,000 NATO-led foreign troops in the country. But many Afghans and foreign observers fear the vote could turn bloody if the Taliban carries out its threats.
“The Afghan people deserve to cast their votes without fear of attacks from the insurgent groups,” U.S. Army Col. Rafael Torres said in the NATO statement. “We are tracking them and taking action before they’re able to carry out their plans.”