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Protests Against 'Charlie Hebdo' Cartoons Turn Violent in Afghanistan

Witnesses say police shot and killed at least two people as hundreds gathered in Kabul to protest the French magazine's depictions of the Prophet Muhammad.
Photo by Rahmat Gul/AP

Violence broke out during a demonstration Saturday in Afghanistan's capital against depictions of the Prophet Muhammad in the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Witnesses reported that police shot and killed at least two people, but Afghan police officials denied claims that anyone died.

Hundreds of protesters gathered in Kabul, chanting "Death to France," and "Death to Infidels." There were also reports of demonstrators flying white Taliban flags and burning the French flag.


The demonstrations quickly turned violent when protesters began to attack police with stones, burn tires, and loot nearby stores.

Video shows gunfire being exchanged and Afghan police forces dispersing the protest.

Exclusive interview with 'Charlie Hebdo' cartoonist Luz. Watch it here.

Kabul police chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi said that the police acted in response to some "irresponsible armed men" who opened fire on officers. Another police official said 17 policemen and seven civilians were injured, but claimed no one had been killed.

Witnesses, however, disputed this report from the police. One witness told Reuters that he saw two dead bodies at the scene after police opened fire on the demonstration.

This is the latest in a wave of anti-Charlie Hebdo protests that have taken place in Afghanistan and other majority-Muslim countries. The demonstrations have generally been calm, but have occasionally erupted into violence. An AFP photographer was shot and seriously wounded while covering a protest in Pakistan earlier this month, and at least 10 people were killed during clashes in Niger.

Churches torched in Niger as riots over 'Charlie Hebdo' cover turn deadly. Read more here. 

In 2011, seven United Nations employees were killed in Afghanistan after protests erupted over a video that showed an American pastor burning the Quran.

The recent protests are fueled by the French magazine's frequent depictions of the Prophet Muhammad, which many Muslims see as a provocation. Tensions have also increased as a result of a recent rise in anti-Muslim sentiments and attacks across Europe that have taken place since Islamist gunmen attacked the offices of the magazine in Paris on January 7. The attackers killed 12 people, including four prominent French satirists.

Follow Olivia Becker on Twitter: @obecker928