Protests over Quran-burning plan kill 2

KABUL, Afghanistan — Two people were killed and about half a dozen others injured in continuing protests Sunday against an American pastor's plan — abandoned two days earlier — to burn copies of the Muslim holy book.

Violence stemming from the threat by a heretofore little-known pastor, Terry Jones, illustrated the depth of outrage inspired in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Muslim world over his church's declared intent to desecrate the Quran to mark the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.

The episode also showed the difficulty of tamping down anti-Western sentiment in Afghanistan once popular fury has been whipped up by religious leaders and other organizers — a particular hazard in a country where many people are illiterate and word of the cancellation of the Quran-burning spread slowly.

Sunday's lethal clash occurred in Lowgar province, south of the capital, Kabul. The province had been the scene of a much larger protest a day earlier that attracted more than 10,000 people. Initially peaceful, Saturday's protest took a violent turn as demonstrators hurled stones and tried to storm the provincial governor's compound.

The demonstration on Sunday, in the district of Baraki Barak, followed a similar pattern: Hundreds of protesters tried to overrun the local government's headquarters, and Afghan police opened fire.

Days of unrest over the threatened Quran-burning coincided with rising tensions in advance of Saturday's parliamentary elections. Many observers fear that vote will be plagued by both fraud and violence.

Taliban fighters have vowed to try to disrupt the balloting for the lower house of parliament, the second such vote since the austere Islamist movement was toppled by a U.S.-led invasion nearly nine years ago.