KABUL, AFGHANISTAN: The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan called on his troops to resist any urge to avenge two American soldiers killed in riots over the burning of Qurans at a U.S. base, even as renewed protests Friday claimed at least seven lives.
The anti-American demonstrations by thousands of Afghans who took to the streets after midday prayers were further evidence that President Barack Obama’s apology has failed to quiet the outrage over what the United States says was the inadvertent destruction of the holy books.
The killing of the two U.S. soldiers and the civil unrest have further strained Afghanistan’s relations with the United States. Afghan President Hamid Karzai is trying to negotiate a long-term partnership with the United States to govern the activities of U.S. forces in his country after 2014, when most foreign combat troops will have left or taken on support roles.
The violence against coalition troops also comes at a time when many countries contributing to the force are seeking to accelerate their withdrawal from what has become an unpopular and costly war that has dragged on for more than 10 years.
At least 20 people, including the two U.S. soldiers, have been killed in four days of violence.
Protesters have ignored appeals by Karzai, parliamentarians and some clerics for an end to the violence until an investigation into the incident at Bagram Air Field is concluded in coming days.
Afghan officials said seven people were killed around the country Friday by Afghan security forces trying to disperse crowds or responding to gunfire from protesters.
One of the dead was part of a crowd trying to storm a Hungarian military base in northern Baghlan province. Six others were killed in western Herat province, including three people who died when a truck full of ammunition exploded after protesters set it ablaze, the governor’s office said.
Anti-American protesters also gathered in several locations around Kabul.
U.S. Gen. John Allen, who commands all U.S. and coalition troops, traveled late Thursday to the American base in the east where an Afghan soldier opened fire on U.S. troops, killing two Americans.
“There will be moments like this when you’re searching for the meaning of this loss. There will be moments like this when your emotions are governed by anger and a desire to strike back,” Allen said in comments NATO released Friday.
“Now is not the time for revenge. Now is not the time for vengeance. Now is the time to look deep inside your souls, remember your mission, remember your discipline, remember who you are.”
Allen was accompanied by Afghan National Army Gen. Sher Mohammed Karimi.