Rock-throwing protesters attacked a U.N. compound, clashed with police and set tyres alight in Afghanistan Saturday, as a fifth day of protests over the burning of Korans left four dead.
Dozens were also injured as violence rocked the northern city of Kunduz, where the U.N. compound was attacked, in unrest that raised the death toll from the protests to 28, according to an AFP tally.
Columns of smoke hung over the city as demonstrators set tyres and traffic booths alight, witnesses said.
There were fresh protests in five different Afghan provinces Saturday over the burning of the Islamic holy book -- which prisoners allegedly used to pass messages -- at the US airbase at Bagram near Kabul.
In Mihtarlam, in the central province of Laghman, protesters suffered gunshot wounds.
The worst violence was in Kunduz, where thousands attempted to storm the U.N. complex but failed to get in when police fired into the crowd at around 2:00 pm (0930 GMT), according to an AFP correspondent at the scene.
Officers had so far managed to stop the crowd from entering the compound, police spokesman Sarwar Husaini told AFP, adding that reinforcements were being sent to protect the premises.
A UN spokeswoman confirmed the attack but refused to say how many U.N. staff were on site at the time.
Sahad Mokhtar, head of the public health department in Kunduz, said: "The report we have so far from hospitals is four killed, 56 wounded in today's demonstrations."
The Koran burning has inflamed anti-Western sentiment already smoldering in Afghanistan over abuses by U.S.-led foreign troops, such as the release last month of a video showing US Marines urinating on the corpses of dead Afghans.
Denise Jeanmonod, a spokeswoman for UNAMA, the United Nations' mission in Afghanistan, confirmed the Kunduz incident, saying that the organization was "assessing the situation at the scene."
But she refused to give further details "for the security of staff" at the compound, or to say how many people were there.
In Mihtarlam, hospital officials told AFP 15 protesters had been brought in with gunshot wounds.
Rallies elsewhere in Afghanistan were largely peaceful, however, authorities said.
A demonstrator in Mihtarlam, named only as Abdullah, put the crowd there at "around 2,000" and said: "The protesters turned violent and were throwing stones at the governor's palace.
"Gunshots were fired by the security forces."
A police spokesman in the town said: "The police have been able to disperse the demos in the city, but there are still some bunches of protesters around."
Government and local police sources in the eastern provinces of Logar and Nangarhar, and the central province of Sari Pul, said rallies were also being held in those locations but were largely peaceful so far.
In Sari Pul, demonstrator Mohammad Sadiq said "around 5,000" people had gathered at the Pul-e-Khishti mosque. "They condemned the holy Koran burning," he said. "It is not violent yet."
Authorities were not immediately able to confirm the size of the crowd.
In Logar, a police source said: "Around 200 people, mostly university students have taken to the streets in Muhammad Agha district.
"They have closed the Kabul-Logar highway, and are chanting 'Death to America' and 'Death to Karzai'."
President Hamid Karzai's government and the U.S.-led NATO mission in Afghanistan have appealed for calm and restraint, fearful that Taliban insurgents are trying to exploit the anti-American backlash.
The circumstances surrounding the Koran incident, which happened overnight Monday to Tuesday, are still subject to investigation.
But U.S. officials told AFP the military removed the books from a prison at Bagram because inmates were suspected of using them to pass messages.
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