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Friday, February 24

Koran burning riots: Afghan security forces brace for Day 4 (UPDATED 2:15 PM)

Oh, fooey. The pix at Reuters showing a line of Afghan police in riot gear I linked to in the wee hours this morning has been replaced by a slide show of pix from the rioting. Of course Reuters would have kept updating the report and pix throughout the day; I just didn't think of that at the time I saw the pix of the Afghan police ready for the day's events. Oh well; the pix is probably still there somewhere. From the last Reuters update (1:47 PM ET), it looks as if the Kabul police did a pretty good job under the circumstances. Although the death tally for the day is 12, only two rioters were killed in Kabul -- and one of them, according to the police on the scene, was killed by armed rioters, who're taking refuge in shops after firing off their weapons. The police are unsure who shot the other rioter, but this is just why I'm not bothering with the pretense of referring to the unrest as 'protests.' The cats among the pigeons brought guns to the party. Okay; here's the Reuters link again' go there for the slide show and the latest rundown on major incidents across Afghanistan (and Pakistan) as the unrest happened on Day 4.
BTW Kabul is 9 hours and 30 minutes ahead of Eastern U.S. time (EST). The picture of Afghan security forces in riot gear that accompanies this Reuters report (see below) has a strikingly modern look, even if the surroundings in the pix are a bit -- er, quaint. Bracing for large scale protests that include rioting in an urban setting is part of the shape of the modern world. Who would've thought 10 years ago that cities in Afghanistan would be in the thick of that world. An odd way to measure progress but a measure nonetheless.

So. Afghan security forces are getting a chance to test out their Western training in modern riot control techniques. Good luck, guys.

Afghanistan braces for fourth day of Koran protests
Feb 24, 2012 2:48am EST

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan riot police and soldiers were on guard across Kabul and other cities in a bid to stop a fourth day of violent protests, with authorities worried about incendiary Friday mosque sermons over the burning of Korans at a NATO base.

Friday is a holy day and the official weekly holiday and large crowds were expected at major mosques in the capital, with police in armed pick-up trucks guarding surrounding streets and buildings.

"Although peaceful demonstrations are the right of people, we strongly urge our countrymen to fully avoid turning them into violent ones," said Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi.

"Police are fully prepared to respond to situations," Sediqqi told Reuters.
In central Kabul, elite anti-riot officers in protective jackets and helmets secured intersections after complaints that security force numbers had been insufficient in protests so far that have left 11 people dead, including two American soldiers.

Troops and intelligence officials stood by in support, although most Westerners have been confined to their heavily fortified compounds, including at the sprawling U.S. embassy complex and other diplomatic missions.

The embassy in a message on the microblogging site Twitter urged U.S. citizens to "please be safe out there" and expanded movement restrictions to relatively peaceful northern provinces, where large demonstrations also occurred on Thursday, including the attempted storming of a Norwegian military base.

Demonstrations in the last three days drew thousands of angry Afghans to the streets, chanting "Death to America!," smashing shops and windows.

A large protest has already been planned for the eastern city of Jalalabad, where violent demonstrations have taken place in the last few days.

The Taliban urged Afghan security forces to "turn their guns on the foreign infidel invaders" and repeatedly urged Afghans to kill, beat and capture NATO soldiers.

(Reporting by Rob Taylor; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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