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Afghanistan: Quran burning riots force closure of Talokan military base

Ongoing protests in Afghanistan over the burning of Qurans by NATO soldiers left at least 12 people dead Friday. Meanwhile the German military closed one of its bases weeks earlier than planned because of the danger to foreign troops.

Afghanistan quran burning protests 24 02 2012Enlarge
Afghan policemen stand alert during a protest against Quran desecration in Kabul on Feb. 24, 2012. (MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images)

A fourth day of protests in Afghanistan has left at least 12 more people dead and forced the closure of a foreign military base, as Afghans express their anger at the burning of Qurans at a US air field.

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in cities across the country on Friday, a weekly holiday, Reuters reported.

More from GlobalPost: Two US soldiers killed by Afghan, as Obama apologizes over Quran burning

Two protesters were killed in the capital, Kabul, seven in the western province of Herat, two in Khost in the east, and one in Baghlan province in the north.

In some cases it is unclear how they died, with police in Kabul telling the news agency that some protesters were armed. 

The crowds have been directing their anger at international coalition forces, the BBC reported. In Herat, protesters reportedly attempted to storm the US consulate, while others in Kabul marched on the US embassy and NATO headquarters. 

The security risk has forced Germany to close one of its military bases, authorities announced. According to Der Spiegel, hundreds of Afghans, some throwing stones, massed outside the Talokan base in northern Afghanistan, which is said to be difficult to secure because of its location in the center of a city. 

German soldiers had been due to man the base until March, but have been moved back to the larger Kunduz base, 70 kilometers away, for their own safety.

More from GlobalPost: NATO apologizes for 'improper disposal' of Qurans

Two American soldiers were shot yesterday by a man dressed in Afghan army uniform.

The commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, General John R. Allen, renewed his appeals for calm. Stressing that the Quran incident was being investigated, he said: "Working together with the Afghan leadership is the only way for us to correct this major error and ensure that it never happens again."

The US government has offered its apologies for what President Barack Obama called a "genuine mistake." 

Some Republicans criticized that stance, however. According to ABC News, GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich claimed: "It is Hamid Karzai who owes the American people an apology, not the other way around," accusing the Afghan president of tolerating "systematic violence and oppression." 

Meanwhile Sarah Palin tweeted: 

The White House defended its position. Press secretary Jay Carney said apologizing was "absolutely the right thing to do," given that the president's chief concerns was "the safety of American men and American women in Afghanistan."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/afghanistan/120224/afghanistan-quran-burning-riots-talokan-military-base-closed