Nine people died Saturday in new protests against a Quran burning in the U.S., a day after seven U.N. staff were killed by a mob in the worst attack on the world body in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion.
The fresh protests began from the centre of the main southern city of Kandahar and spread to other locations as police clashed with crowds marching towards the U.N. offices and provincial administration headquarters, witnesses said.
"Today as result of violent demonstrations in Kandahar city 73 people are wounded and nine people are martyred," the administration said in a statement.
The protesters damaged government and private buildings and torched vehicles, it added.
Kandahar is the spiritual heartland of the Taliban, who have fought an insurgency against President Hamid Karzai's government in Kabul and its Western allies since they were ousted by a U.S.-led invasion in 2001.
"Death to America" and "Death to Karzai" chanted the demonstrators. "They have insulted our Quran," shouted one.
Zalmai Ayoubi, a spokesman for the provincial administration told AFP that "destructive elements have entered the crowds and are trying to turn it violent."
The spokesman said all those killed and injured were from the crowds. He said several cars, a large bus and a girls' school had been set ablaze by the protesters.
UN staff killed
Protesters mounting a similar demonstration Friday in Mazar-i-Sharif against the burning of a Quran at a church in Florida stormed a U.N. compound and killed seven staff.
The Taliban said they had no role in Friday's assault after both the provincial governor and a senior U.N. official suggested provocateurs among the crowd had sparked or led the vicious attack.
"The Taliban had nothing to do with this, it was a pure act of responsible Muslims," spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said by phone from an undisclosed location.
"The foreigners brought the wrath of the Afghans on themselves by burning the Quran."
Interior Ministry spokesman Zemari Bashery said police reports suggested the attack was not planned.
In Kabul on Saturday, a small group of burka-clad insurgents attacked a coalition base, although they caused only light injuries to three soldiers, police and NATO-led troops said.
More protests are possible across volatile and deeply religious Afghanistan, where anti-Western sentiment has been fuelled for years by civilian casualties.