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Afghan President, UN Envoy Appeal For Calm Following Kabul Violence

Protesters set a fire during a protest in Kabul on June 2.
Protesters set a fire during a protest in Kabul on June 2.

The Afghan president and the top United Nations representative to the country have appealed for calm after four people were reported killed amid confrontations between police and antigovernment protesters in Kabul.

Meanwhile, a leading human rights group criticized the use of "excessive” force on the protesters, who were demanding the resignation of President Ashraf Ghani's government two days after a deadly truck-bomb blast in the Afghan capital.

"Peaceful protest is the civic right of the people and the government supports that," said a statement issued by Ghani's office several hours after the June 2 violence erupted.

It added that the Afghan government is committed to listening to people’s demands and that it will consider “logical demands” after receiving them.

The statement also said that the government "regrets" the deaths and injuries of a number of citizens at the protest.

The UN secretary-general’s special representative for Afghanistan, Tadamichi Yamamoto, also appealed for restraint in a statement.

The anger expressed by the protesters is “fully understandable,” said Yamamoto, who is also head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

But he added that “this tragic week has already added too much civilian suffering to Afghanistan, and further violence will not solve any problems.”

"I strongly discourage any actor from seeking opportunistically to use these very emotional and fragile moments to destabilize the situation and risk further harm to civilians," the UN envoy also said.

Earlier, police in riot gear fired into the air and used tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters and prevent them from marching toward the presidential palace. Some reports said police also opened fire at protesters who tried to advance toward the building.

Health Ministry spokesman Waheed Majrooh told RFE/RL that four people were killed and eight injured at the protest.

Mohammad Alam Izadyar, the first deputy chairman of the Afghan Senate, told RFE/RL that his son, Salem Izadyar, was injured in the protest and taken to a hospital, where he died. It was not immediately clear how he was injured.

Some protesters threw stones at police, and the deputy interior minister for security, General Murad Ali Murad, told reporters that a number of individuals who carried weapons and “aimed to disrupt peace” at the protest were arrested.

Afghan media outlet Tolonews quoted protesters as saying that six of them were detained by police.

Amnesty International criticized the use of "excessive and fatal force on protesters," saying it “illustrates the authorities’ contempt for the lives of ordinary people.”

“While there are reports that a minority of protesters used violence including throwing stones at the police, this does not justify such an excessive and deadly response,” the London-based group's South Asia Director Biraj Patnaik said in a statement.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (file photo)
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (file photo)

Patnaik added that authorities should ensure that those responsible for deaths are brought to justice.

The chaotic scenes unfolded after more than 1,000 protesters gathered near the site of the May 31 morning rush-hour attack that killed at least 90 people and wounded more than 460, most of them civilians.

The deadliest bombing in the capital since a U.S.-led invasion drove the Taliban from power in 2001, it compounded questions about the Western-backed government's ability to protect citizens from militant groups including the Taliban and Islamic State (IS).

Some protesters carried pictures of victims of the attack, many of whom were women and children.

Others carried antigovernment signs and banners, including one that said: “As long as Ghani is in the [presidential palace], there is death.”

"Ghani! Abdullah! Resign! Resign!" read one poster -- a reference to Chani and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah, who have led the beleaguered country under a power-sharing deal hammered out after a bitter and disputed election in 2014.

Protester Ahmad Saeedi told RFE/RL that the demonstrators wanted "justice."

"The authorities are incompetent," he said, adding that they should resign.

"People don’t trust these leaders anymore. They have to give up power," Saeedi said.

No group has claimed responsibility for the May 31 bombing, and the Taliban has denied involvement.

Reuters has reported that Afghanistan's main intelligence agency, the National Directorate for Security, believes it was carried out by the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network with assistance from Pakistan -- a charge also leveled by some former Afghan officials.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, AP, Tolonews, The Washington Post, and AFP

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