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3 dead in Afghan 'Quran shooting' protest

  • Story Highlights
  • Protest over Quran desecration turns violent, leaving three people dead
  • Two civilians and NATO international force soldier killed at airbase near Ghor
  • Another soldier and seven civilians left injured after guns fired
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(CNN) -- Two civilians and a Lithuanian soldier were killed when a protest outside a NATO base in western Afghanistan against the Quran desecration incident in Iraq turned violent on Thursday, a spokesman for the alliance's military in Kabul said.

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Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond apologized to Iraqis after a soldier used the Quran for target practice.

Maj. Martin O'Donnell, a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), told CNN the incident occurred at the Chaghcharan Airfield in Ghor province.

One ISAF soldier, 10 Afghan National Police and seven civilians were also wounded, the ISAF said.

The civilians were killed or wounded when Afghan National Police fired on them after the protesters began throwing rocks and tents were set on fire, the ISAF said. O'Donnell said the tents were inside the airfield, but protesters did not enter the compound.

There has been anger in Iraq and other places in the Muslim world after the desecration of the Quran by a United States soldier, who used the Muslim holy book for target practice. President Bush and the U.S. military have issued apologies for the act.

Other demonstrations protesting the Quran desecration were held in Afghanistan Thursday -- in Badakhshan and Kunduz provinces in the north and in Kabul, where Afghan lawmakers staged a walkout of parliament.

A Lithuanian National Defense Ministry spokeswoman told CNN the dead soldier was a 34-year-old male who was on security watch during the Quran protest when he was shot down. He was the first Lithuanian soldier to die in the Afghan conflict.

It is not clear who shot him and the Lithuanian military is investigating. The official said Lithuanian troops were firing into the air and not firing back.

"There were local policemen involved. They reacted very quickly to help our troops," spokeswoman Jovita Bazeviciute said.

Lithuania has the ISAF command in the area, where there is a provincial reconstruction team. O'Donnell said troops from about six nations operated in the area.

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"We condemn the violence," O'Donnell added, and said the situation there was now calm.

"While ISAF encourages the freedom of the people of Afghanistan to hold a peaceful demonstration under their democracy, violent demonstrations have no place in Afghanistan and they cause tragedies."

CNN's Farhad Peikar in Kabul and Joe Sterling in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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