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Anti-U.S. Afghan protests: 7 dead

U.S.: No signs yet of Quran abuse


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KABUL, Afghanistan -- Seven people have been killed and more than 20 wounded in fresh protests in Afghanistan as anger spread over a report about the use of Islam's holy book by U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo Bay, according to reports.

Four policemen and national army soldiers were killed in a clash with protesters in Ghazni province, to the southwest of the capital Kabul, Reuters reported residents there as saying.

Three protesters were killed in the remote northeastern province of Badakhshan during a protest there, provincial police chief Shah Jahan Noori told the news agency.

"Apart from the three killed, 21 people, including two police, were wounded," Noori said, adding that protesters had damaged several aid agency offices.

On Thursday, police clashed with anti-U.S. demonstrators in two Afghan towns, killing at least three people. (Full story)

And on Wednesday, at least four people were been killed and 70 injured in violent protests in Jalalabad, in the eastern part of the country. (Full story)

Meanwhile in Washington, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said an investigation has so far turned up no evidence of U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo Bay desecrating the Muslim holy book, the Quran.

Reports of the alleged desecration have sparked public outrage in Muslim countries in addition to the violent demonstrations in Afghanistan.

Newsweek magazine, in its latest edition, quoted sources as saying that investigators probing abuses at the military prison had found that interrogators "had placed Qurans on toilets, and in at least one case flushed a holy book down the toilet."

Gen. Richard Myers said Thursday that an investigation by the U.S. Southern Command, which has jurisdiction over the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has so far turned up no evidence that that incident took place.

"They have looked through the logs, interrogation logs, and they cannot confirm yet that there was ever the case of the toilet incident," Myers said.

Pakistan, a close ally of the United States in its war on terror, has condemned the reported incidents at Guantanamo and urged strong punishment for anyone found responsible.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri said any such desecration would be "intolerable" and "abominable."

He told CNN in a television interview from Sydney on Friday that if the situation was as reported, he hoped the United States would make an example of those responsible.

He said Pakistan expected the United States to act "sooner rather than later."

Many of the 520 inmates in Guantanamo are Pakistanis and Afghans captured after the September 11 attacks on America.

Despite both governments' support of the U.S.-led war on terrorism, suspicion lingers in the conservative Muslim nations about the American military.

Myers said the only incident recorded in the prison logs was of a detainee tearing pages from a Quran and using them in an attempt to block a toilet as a protest, and even that incident, he said, was unconfirmed.

"It's a log entry that has to be confirmed," he said. "There are several log entries that show that the Quran may have been moved and detainees became irritated about it, but never an incident where it was thrown in the toilet."

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also addressed the issue in an appearance before a Senate subcommittee Thursday.

"Disrespect for the Holy Quran is not now, nor has it ever been, nor will it ever be, tolerated by the United States. We honor the sacred books of all the world's great religions. Disrespect for the Holy Quran is abhorrent to us all. ...

"Our military authorities are investigating these allegations fully. If they are proven true, we will take appropriate action. ... Guaranteeing religious rights is of great personal importance to the president and to me."

Police fired on hundreds of anti-U.S. demonstrators Thursday in the town of Khogyani to prevent them from departing toward Jalalabad, about 20 miles to the north, local police chief Maj. Gul Wali said.

Wali said three of the protesters died and one was injured. He claimed many at the gathering were armed.

However, Interior Ministry spokesman Latufallah Mashal said only two people died in Khogyani, while a third protester died in a separate clash with police in Wardak province, south of Kabul.

In Kabul, more than 200 young men marched from a dormitory block near Kabul University chanting "Death to America!" and carrying banners including one stating: "Those who insult the Quran should be brought to justice."

Ahmad Shah, a political sciences undergraduate, said the students decided to protest after hearing of the deaths in Jalalabad on Wednesday.

"America is our enemy and we don't want them in Afghanistan," Shah said as the students ended their protest and returned to classes later Thursday. "When they insult our holy book they have insulted us."

Growing urban unrest could pose another security challenge for the U.S.-backed Afghan government, which is already battling a reinvigorated Taliban insurgency. About 18,000 U.S. troops are in Afghanistan, fighting rebels and searching for Taliban and al Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden.

CNN Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre contributed to this report


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