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9:07pm UK, Saturday February 25, 2012
Britain is pulling out all civilian advisers from buildings in Kabul after two American officers were shot dead amid protests over Koran burning.
The Afghan Taliban has claimed responsibility for the killing of the Nato officers at the interior ministry in the capital – an attack condemned as “unacceptable” by US defence secretary Leon Panetta.
It was in retaliation for the burning of copies of the Koran at a Nato base in the country, the group said.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “As a temporary measure the British Embassy has withdrawn civilian mentors and advisors from institutions within Kabul. We will keep the situation under review.”
The commander of Nato and US forces has also recalled all Nato personnel from Afghan ministries in Kabul.
America’s top commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, said Nato was investigating Saturday’s shooting and would pursue all leads to find the person responsible for the attack.
Anti-US protesters throw rocks at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan
The heavily-barricaded ministry in the centre of the Afghan capital has been sealed off.
The attack comes as more people died in a fifth day of violent mass protests over the controversy.
One person was shot dead and two were also wounded in a shooting that took place in Logar province south of Kabul after violent clashes between hundreds of protesters and security forces.
In northern Kunduz, three protesters were shot dead and 50 wounded when demonstrators tried to overrun a UN compound.
Protests also flared in Nangarhar, Logar and Paktia provinces with 1,000 demonstrators attacking police and attempting to storm the governor’s house in Laghman province.
The latest fatalities come after 12 people were killed and dozens wounded in demonstrations on Friday.
At least 25 people have been killed and hundreds wounded since Tuesday when it first emerged that Korans and other religious items had been incinerated at Bagram Airbase, north of Kabul.
US President Barack Obama was forced to apologise saying the incident was a terrible mistake, and Afghan leader Hamid Karzai called for restraint.
But Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich attacked the President for apologising, saying it was “astonishing” and undeserved.
The incident will have setback Nato’s efforts to leave the country peacefully when combat troops pull out in 2014.
The desecration of the Koran is considered one of the worst forms of blasphemy for Muslims.