Both President Karzai and challenger Abdullah have apparently rejected the idea of a deal to avoid a run-off vote for the presidential spot. In addition, Karzai has rejected Abdullah’s demand to sack the head of the election commission, though Abdullah has not said what he might do if his demand is not met. (Some say Abdullah made a tacit threat to boycott the election, though few expect him to actually pull out, threat or not.)
Meanwhile, the rising tide of opposition to the war in the UK has brought ten thousand out to the streets of London. More from the Observer:
Rebel British soldier calls for Afghan exit
Thousands march in London anti-war demo
Oct 25 – A serving soldier facing a court martial for refusing to return to Afghanistan called on Britain to withdraw all troops from the country at an anti-war demonstration in London yesterday that attracted 5,000 protesters.
Lance Corporal Joe Glenton, 27, of the Royal Logistic Corps, said the presence of British forces in one of the world’s poorest countries was making the situation worse. “It is distressing to disobey orders, but when Britain follows America in continuing to wage war against one of the world’s poorest countries, I feel I have no choice,” he told anti-war protesters at Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park.
“Politicians have abused the trust of the army and the soldiers who serve. That’s why I am compelled and proud to march with the Stop the War Coalition.”
The father of a soldier killed in Iraq, who recently refused to shake hands with Tony Blair, also attended the march. Peter Brierley, 59, whose son, Lance Corporal Shaun Brierley, was killed in Iraq in 2003, recounted how he told the former prime minister at a memorial at St Paul’s Cathedral, London, that he had blood on his hands and that one day he would have to answer for what he had done… (link)
You can see more coverage of the demonstration at the Stop the War website, where you can see Youtube videos of short speeches from Tony Benn, Tariq Ali, George Galloway and others. The Seumas Milne speech is quite good.
Afghans are doing their own protesting, according to Reuters:
In Kabul, shouting “Down with America,” Afghans clashed with police protesting against what participants said was the desecration of a copy of the Koran by foreign troops…
Underscoring many Afghans’ unease with the presence of foreign troops, hundreds of people gathered in central Kabul on October 26 shouting anti-American slogans and throwing stones.
For the second consecutive day, police fired into the air to break up the crowd as protesters prepared to set fire to a crudely made effigy of Obama outside the parliament building.
Protesters say NATO forces burned a copy of Islam’s holiest book during a raid in eastern Afghanistan last week.
The NATO-led force in Afghanistan has denied any involvement and blamed the Taliban for spreading false rumors.
Police arrested up to 30 people, a Reuters witness said. At least one police officer was injured in the clashes, another witness said.
Hundreds of people also gathered in the western city of Herat on October 26 in related anti-U.S. protests, a Reuters witness said. (link)
As if Afghans didn’t have a enough to protest about, some US Special Forces have added more grief:
U.S. Forces Kill Four Afghans In Car, Police Say
KANDAHAR, Oct 24 (Reuters) – Four Afghans, including a child and two women, were killed when U.S. forces opened fire on a car in southern Kandahar city, police have said.
A man in the car also was killed when a U.S. military convoy opened fire on the civilian vehicle, Kandahar police official Shah Agha told Reuters. He said a U.S. Special Forces convoy appeared to be involved…
A NATO spokesman in Afghanistan said three civilians were killed and two were wounded when NATO forces fired on the car because it failed to stop when repeatedly signaled to do so. (link)
At a subsequent protest the following day in Kabul, witnesses tell of police violence and arrests:
Police beat, open fire on demonstrators
by Sardar Ahmad
KABUL, Oct 26 (AFP) – Afghan police Monday opened fire and turned a water cannon on demonstrators angry about allegations that Western troops torched a Koran, wounding at least three people, officials and witnesses said.
Clashes erupted as police tried to prevent around 300 students, most of them men, from marching on parliament, the city’s criminal investigation police chief, Sayed Abdul Ghafar Sayedzada, told media.
“Police fired at the crowd, one bullet hit me. I was closing my shop at the time,” Sherullah, an 18-year-old man who suffered a bullet wound to his hip, told AFP from his hospital bed.
“They (policemen) were just firing. They were firing at the people,” the wounded young man said.
Sayedzada denied that police fired towards the crowd, saying they only aimed their guns in the air. They also used water cannon, the police chief added.
But a doctor at the emergency ward of Ibn Sina hospital told media that at least three men suffering from “bullet wounds” had been admitted for treatment.
More than 15 police were also wounded in clashes between the angry mob and security forces, interior ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary said.
An AFP reporter at the scene saw about three dozen people, mainly young students, herded into a police vehicle and taken away.
“We were demonstrating, we wanted to protest the burning of Qoran by the foreign forces but the police came and started beating us,” a young man, refusing to give his name, told media from the back of a police vehicle… (link)