NATO withdraws Afghan ministry staff after shooting

NATO today pulled all its staff out of Afghan government ministries after two of its advisors were shot dead within the interior ministry, as anti-US protests raged for a fifth day.

Taliban insurgents claimed responsibility for the shooting, saying it was in revenge for the burning of Qurans at a US-run military base -- an incident that forced US President Barack Obama to apologise to the Afghan people.

In a day of violence across the country, a UN compound came under attack by thousands of demonstrators in northeastern Kunduz province, but they were driven back when police fired into the crowd, an AFP correspondent at the scene said.

Five people were reported killed in the attack, taking the five day death toll from protests over the burning of Korans at the US-run Bagram airbase to around 30.

President Hamid Karzai issued a statement urging demonstrators and Afghan security forces to exercise restraint, saying the government was pressing the US "on the need to bring to justice the perpetrators of the crime".

NATO said that in the Kabul shooting "an individual" turned his weapon against International Security Assistance Force officers in the interior ministry, killing two, without giving further details.

A government source told AFP the two men were American advisors and that they were shot within the interior ministry, which has responsibilities for counter-terrorism operations, by a member of the Afghan police.

"For obvious force protection reasons, I have ... taken immediate measures to recall all other ISAF personnel working in ministries in and around Kabul," said General John Allen, commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force.

"We are committed to our partnership with the government of Afghanistan to reach our common goal of a peaceful, stable and secure Afghanistan in the near future."

The US, which leads a 130,000-strong military force fighting an insurgency in Afghanistan, has advisors throughout the Afghan government.

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