- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 11, 2005

KABUL, Afghanistan — Demonstrators angry over a report of the desecration of the Koran at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, smashed car and shop windows and stoned a passing convoy of U.S. soldiers yesterday in eastern Afghanistan. Police opened fire on the protesters, killing four and injuring at least 71.

The U.S. troops fired into the air before fleeing the area in Jalalabad, near the Pakistan border, provincial intelligence chief Sardar Shah said. It was the biggest outpouring of anti-American sentiment since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

Mobs also attacked the Pakistani Consulate and the offices of two U.N. agencies and a Swedish relief organization. No foreigners were reported hurt, and witnesses said police and government troops had restored order by early afternoon.

“There is a lot of damage to the city; they have burned a lot of things,” Mr. Shah said. “These are the enemies of peace and stability in Afghanistan who don’t want people to be able to get on with their lives in peace.”

U.S. spokeswoman Lt. Cindy Moore said American forces in the area were ordered back to their camps, but she had no information on whether any were caught in the unrest.

Four persons were killed and 71 injured, including seven police officers, the Interior Ministry said.

Demonstrations began Tuesday, when protesters burned an effigy of President Bush over a report in Newsweek magazine that interrogators at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay placed Korans on toilets to rattle suspects and, in at least one case, “flushed a holy book down the toilet.”

At the Pentagon, spokesman Bryan Whitman said yesterday that the accusation will be investigated.

“This is a serious allegation, and it’s going to be looked into,” Mr. Whitman said. “We have a great consideration with respect to the detainees we’re holding and their religious practices.”

U.S. Charge d’Affaires Richard Christenson said in Kabul that the embassy was “deeply concerned” about the violence and “disrespect toward the holy book of any religion is unacceptable.”

The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan, one of the largest aid organizations in the country, said staff members at its Jalalabad office took refuge on the roof yesterday as a mob stole, smashed or burned their equipment and torched two of their cars.

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