200 Afghans march against US Quran burning

Around 200 protesters marched on the American Embassy in Kabul Friday to protest against the burning of a Qur’an by a preacher in Florida and plans for permanent US bases in Afghanistan.

The demonstrators, who left from mosques in downtown Kabul after Friday prayers, burned a US flag and stamped on it, shouting “Death to America”.

“A mullah’s speech encouraged people for the demonstration because of the burning of a Quran in the United States, and because we don’t want US bases in Afghanistan,” Mawladad, one of the protesters told AFP. Organisers had refused to talk to the media.

Pastor Wayne Sapp set light to a Quran on March 21 under the supervision of Terry Jones, who last year drew condemnation over his aborted plan to burn a pile of the holy books to mark the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Jones cancelled his plans under enormous pressure from world leaders including US President Barack Obama, but the mere threat to burn the Muslim holy book sparked large protests in Afghanistan and other Muslim nations.

“We are approaching the Pharaoh’s (the oppressor) house. Death to USA, death to Israel” the protesters shouted on Friday as they approached Masood Square, the start of the heavily-securitised thoroughfare to the embassy.

After demonstrators congregated for a few minutes, largely without incident, although half a dozen people tried to attack journalists who managed to escape before the crowd dispersed.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai confirmed in February he was discussing with the United States the possible establishment of permanent US military bases after the Afghan forces have taken responsibility from foreign forces in 2014.