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Filed under: Latest News — admin     6:01 pm April 6, 2011

Afghan fury over the burning of a Koran in the US has been fuelled by disillusion with the West over the war, public outrage by President Hamid Karzai, and the rising voice of radicalism, experts say.

While there has been little violent reaction in the rest of the Islamic world to the stunt by an obscure Florida pastor, at least 24 people have been killed in Afghanistan in recent days, including seven United Nations employees.

The wave of bloody demonstrations started with last week’s UN attack in the relatively peaceful northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, eight days after Karzai condemned as “disrespectful and abhorrent” the burning of the Koran.

There had been scant coverage of the burning of the holy book in Afghanistan before Karzai, who has a history of anti-Western outbursts, launched his fresh salvo against the United States.

Some experts suggest he drew attention to the incident in a bid to boost his own popularity in his country, which has declined during nearly 10 years of a US-led war.

Karzai’s spokesman Waheed Omer has defended his boss by saying that people in Afghanistan would have found out about the Koran burning even if Karzai had not spoken about it.

But political analyst Haroun Mir said: “Suddenly after the Afghan president… talked about it, then there was a wind in Afghanistan.”

Mir added that since Karzai’s re-election in 2009, the president’s criticism of Western institutions had increased, while the voices of radical elements at work in Afghanistan have become louder.

It is these ultra-conservatives who have been at the forefront of the protests, while moderates have not dared to venture out to make public statements against the mob anger.

“A number of groups are using this event, I mean the burning of the holy Koran, in order to incite violence,” Mir added.

“And unfortunately, there is a total absence of moderate voices in the country right now that could counter this.”

That is also linked to rising anti-Western feeling in Afghanistan, where 130,000 international troops, around two-thirds from the United States, are stationed fighting the Taliban insurgency, other experts say.

Thomas Ruttig of the Afghanistan Analysts Network said there was a “general frustration about what the international community has achieved and not achieved in this country.”

He highlighted little improvement in the lives of most ordinary Afghans, who still live in grinding poverty, in the past decade.

In addition, mistaken killings of Afghan civilians in military operations by NATO-led forces have been high on the news agenda recently, along with reports of an alleged rogue US army unit “kill team” targeting civilians.

Both have been sharply and publicly condemned by Karzai.

Ruttig added that the intense sensitivity of religious issues in Afghanistan should not be overlooked as a factor in why the protests have snowballed.

“Afghanistan is not a secularised society,” he said. “This kind of provocation and attacks on the holy book are taken very seriously and are very sensitive.”

The attacks have been widely condemned, while the White House has criticised the Koran burning as “un-American” and Karzai has ordered an investigation into violence in Mazar-i-Sharif and Kandahar, where the worst incidents happened.

More demonstrations are feared — several hundred people gathered in Kabul Tuesday although that passed off peacefully.

However, Mir sounded a note of warning, saying: “It doesn’t mean that if until now there’s nothing going on in Kabul, nothing will happen.”

Source : AFP

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