Jalalabad, Afghanistan Demonstrators battled police in southern Afghanistan’s main city on Sunday and took to the streets in the turbulent east for the first time as Western pleas failed to halt a third day of rage over a Florida pastor’s burning of the Quran.
An officer was shot dead in a second day of clashes in the city of Kandahar, said provincial health director Qayum Pokhla. Two officers and 18 civilians were wounded, he said.
In Jalalabad, the largest city in the east, hundreds of people blocked the main highway for three hours, shouting for U.S. troops to leave, burning an effigy of President Barack Obama and stomping on a drawing of a U.S. flag.
The violence was set off by anger over the March 20 burning of the Quran by a Florida church — the same church whose pastor had threatened to do so last year on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, triggering worldwide outrage.
The protests, which began Friday, also appear to be fueled more broadly by the resentment that has been building for years in Afghanistan over the operations of Western military forces, blamed for killing and mistreating civilians, and international contractors, seen as enriching themselves and fueling corruption at the expense of ordinary Afghans.
Thousands of demonstrators in the previously peaceful northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif poured into the streets after Friday’s Muslim prayer services and overran a U.N. compound, killing three U.N. staff members and four Nepalese guards.
Military commander Gen. David Petraeus and the top NATO civilian representative in Afghanistan, Mark Sedwill, said they “hope the Afghan people understand that the actions of a small number of individuals, who have been extremely disrespectful to the holy Quran, are not representative of any of the countries of the international community who are in Afghanistan to help the Afghan people.”