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2 NATO Soldiers Shot Dead By Afghan Gunman As Koran Burning Protests Flare Up

Two soldiers of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) were killed when a man in Afghan Army uniform opened fire at them in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday.

An ISAF statement did not divulge any details of the incident, but deferred "casualty identification procedures to the relevant national authorities" as per precedence.

It was not clear whether the assailant was a soldier or a militant disguised as a service member.

A report quoting a security official who refused to disclose his identity said an Afghan policeman shot at his foreign colleagues amid a protest in front of a military base in Khogyani district of the eastern province of Nangarhar.

It was the fourth such incident in two months in Afghanistan. One NATO soldier was killed and six others were injured when their Afghan counterparts opened fire at them during a sports game at a joint military base in Zabul on January 9.

Four French soldiers were killed and 16 more members of the French armed forces were injured on January 20 when one of their Afghan counterparts opened fire on them at a joint Afghan-coalition forces military base in north-eastern Afghanistan. A NATO soldier was killed when a man in Afghan Army uniform opened fire at him in southern Afghanistan on January 31.

The shooting comes amid violent protests for the third day over the burning of copies of the Holy Koran at a U.S. airbase earlier this week.

Five people were killed and several injured as hundreds took to the streets in Afghan cities and towns on Thursday, reports said.

Meanwhile, the Taliban issued a statement on Thursday calling on Afghans "not to stop at protesting" but instead target foreign military bases and personnel to "teach them a lesson that they will never again dare to insult the Holy Koran."

Media reports suggested that the Bagram Airbase personnel on Monday put the copies of Holy Koran seized from detainees in an incinerator after the inmates were found using the sacred texts to pass secret messages to each other.

On Tuesday, the U.S. commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan apologized for what he described as the "improper disposal" of a large number of Islamic religious materials, including the Holy Koran, at the Bagram Airbase.

President Hamid Karzai called on Afghan civilians "not to resort to violence" in their protests and urged the security forces to show restraint in dealing with the demonstrations.

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