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Quran burning threat fuels protests.

9/10/2010 2:49:12 PM

Thousands of Muslims around the world have taken to the streets to protest against threats by an obscure pastor in the United States to burn copies of the Quran on the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the US.

Demonstrations have erupted in countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Indonesia and the Palestinian territories, despite the church in question saying it would not go ahead with the plan.

In Afghanistan, at least one person was reported to have been killed in clashes with security forces as an angry crowd attacked a Nato base in the northern province of Badakshan.

Al Jazeera's Sue Turton, reporting from Kabul, said: "They started throwing rocks at the Nato compound [in Badakshan].

"The governor has told us that one person has been killed and several others injured.

"It's not just in the northeast. We've also heard reports from Farah in the West, that several people were injured there, and that in the east of the country in Nangahar, there were demonstrations there.

"I hear that 'Death to America' was chanted, an effigy of Barack Obama [the US president] was burned, and that people there were chanting 'long-live the Taliban, long live Osama bin Laden'."

But Turton said that the situation appeared to be under control.

"I don't want to give the picture here that the whole of Afghanistan is under some sort of unrest and that momentum is gathering," she said.

"I think this is a day, at the end of Ramadan and the beginning of the Eid celebrations, that people wanted to vent their anger at what they've been hearing, and hopefully it will be calm after that."

Protests spread

Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, used his Eid message to the nation to condemn the plan by the Dove World Outreach Centre.

He called on Jones to "not even think" about burning Qurans because "it was an insult to [Muslim] nations".

On Thursday, the United Nations' top diplomat in Afghanistan told the Reuters news agency that protests over the plan could force the delay of parliamentary elections set for September 18.

The poll is seen as a key test of stability in Afghanistan before Obama conducts a war strategy review in December.

The backlash against the event appeared to be spreading around the world on Friday.

In Pakistan, protesters marched in the cities of Peshawar and Karachi over the proposed burning of Qurans, shouting anti-US slogans.

Demonstrators also gathered in India, Indonesia, Gaza and Jerusalem.

The US state department has issued a warning to US citizens abroad that they face an increased risk of being attacked as a result of the controversy.

"The potential for further protests and demonstrations, some of which may turn violent, remains high," the department said in a special note, urging Americans to avoid areas where protests might occur.

A state department spokesman said that US embassies around the world have convened emergency meetings to assess the potential threat, while US embassies in Jordan, Algeria, Syria and Indonesia had issued special messages to resident American citizens to be particularly alert.

Plan 'halted'

The threat by Terry Jones, the pastor of a small fringe church in Gainesville, Florida, to burn the Qurans had drawn international condemnation and a warning from Obama that it could provoke al-Qaeda suicide bombings and incite violence around the world.

"Right now we have no plans to go ahead with the event," Jones confirmed to the US television programme Good Morning America on Friday.

But hours later Jones, the head of the Dove World Outreach Centre, issued a two hour deadline for a New York based Imam to make contact with him to discuss moving an planned mosque further from the Ground Zero site in New York.

"We have a challenge to give to the imam in New York," Jones told a press conference outside his church.

Jones had earlier said he would fly to New York on Saturday to meet with Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam who plans to build the New York centre, and it was unclear on Friday whether the Quran burning would go ahead if the meeting did not take place.

The proposed location of the New York centre - near the site of the September 11 attacks - has drawn opposition from many Americans who say it is insensitive to families of victims of the nearly 3,000 people killed that day.

'Profound damage'

Speaking on Friday, Barack Obama said that the Quran-burning event could cause "profound damage" to US interests abroad.

"The idea that we would burn the sacred text of someone else's religion is contrary to what this country stands for," the US president told a news conference in Washington.

Other world leaders and international bodies have also denounced Jones' plan to burn copies of Islam's holy book on Saturday.

Interpol, the international police agency, warned governments worldwide of an increased risk of "terrorist attacks" if the burning went ahead.

The US has legal protections for the right to free expression and there was little that law enforcement authorities could do to stop Jones from going ahead, other than citing him under local by-laws against public burning. 2003 - 2009

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Date:Sep 10, 2010
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