KABUL, Afghanistan, May 13 - Thousands of Muslims, from Gaza to Pakistan to Indonesia, emerged from prayer services on Friday to join Afghans in rapidly spreading protests over the reported desecration of a Koran by American interrogators at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
In Afghanistan, at least 8 people were killed and more than 40 injured in clashes, bringing the death toll over four days of anti-American rioting to at least 16, with more than 100 injured. For the first time a policeman was killed in the violence.
Three protesters were killed and 23 people wounded as the police grappled with a crowd of more than 1,500 in Baharak, in far northeastern Badakhstan, the police chief of the province, Gen. Shah Jehan Nuri, said in a telephone interview. Ten police officers and members of the border police, who are based in the town, were among the injured, he said.
In three Pakistan cities, Peshawar, Quetta and Multan, hundreds of protesters led largely by religious parties burned American flags and chanted anti-American slogans after Friday Prayer. The protests were peaceful, though, thanks in large part to the large numbers of police officers deployed outside mosques and official buildings.
Hundreds of people gathered peacefully outside a mosque in Jakarta on Friday while a statement was read condemning the United States for the reported abuses. In Gaza, about 1,500 members of the radical Islamic group Hamas marched through the Jabaliya refugee camp as outrage spread over the reports, including a brief item in Newsweek, that interrogators at Guantánamo Bay had flushed a Koran down the toilet in an effort to upset detainees.
Protesters carrying the green banners of Islam and Hamas shouted, “Protect our holy book!” Some burned American and Israeli flags. Anti-American protests are rare among militant Palestinians, who decry American support for Israel but emphasize that their struggle is with Israel, not the United States.
The White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, said Friday that officials at the Department of Defense were investigating reports of the desecration, and that “they take such allegations very seriously,” but he did not indicate when the investigation would be completed, Reuters reported. “We will not tolerate any disrespect for the holy Koran,” he added.
In Afghanistan, where the protests began Wednesday, the violence seemed to be spreading, with demonstrations in several provincial towns. Police officers and Afghan National Army troops were prepared in many places but still had trouble quelling the violence, which was directed at the government and international organizations.