JALALABAD, May 11: Afghan troops were deployed on the streets of an eastern city on Wednesday after four people died and scores were injured in riots sparked by reports that US soldiers had desecrated the Holy Quran at Guantanamo Bay. More than 70 people were injured, including six policemen, while dozens of vehicles and some 20 government and privates offices were damaged or set on fire, an interior ministry statement said.

Police in Jalalabad opened fire earlier on Wednesday to break up an enraged mob of several thousand people that torched the governor’s house, the Pakistani consulate and several foreign aid agencies, witnesses said.

Workers in the Pakistani consulate were forced to take refuge in a nearby house as protesters torched the building.

“Uncountable people attacked the consulate, we took refuge in the neighbour’s house,” a Pakistani diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

In a second day of protests, the crowd went on the rampage chanting slogans including “Death to America” as well as burning the Stars and Stripes and effigies of US President George Bush, witnesses said.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said the riots showed the “inability” of the war-shattered country’s institutions to deal with such situations, but added the demonstrations at least meant democracy was flourishing.

The unrest in Jalalabad began as a peaceful protest by medical university students but numbers swelled to between 5,000 and 10,000 and the demonstration descended into violence, witnesses and a local police source said.

Television footage showed hordes of men in traditional Afghan clothes hurling stones and sticks at buildings in the dusty streets of Jalalabad, 130 kilometres east of Kabul.—AFP

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