Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched through the streets here today, protesting new U.N. sanctions on the country's ruling Taliban regime for failing to hand over fugitive Saudi businessman Osama bin Laden to face prosecution in the United States for terrorism.
Demonstrators threw stones and raided two U.N. offices. They smashed computers, gates and several windows and burned the flag of the world body. No U.N. staff members were hurt, but several Taliban guards were injured when they tried to prevent the attacks. The guards fired shots into the air to disperse the crowd.
The protesters also shouted anti-American slogans outside the U.S. Embassy building, which has been closed since 1989.
"Death to America! Down with Clinton!" and "Long live Islam!" they chanted. The United States imposed its own sanctions on the Taliban earlier this year and had pushed for the U.N. restrictions.
U.N. officials said one of the buildings broken into was the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
The sanctions--prohibiting international flights to and from Afghanistan and freezing overseas assets of the Taliban--took effect today despite last-minute pleas from the Taliban for a delay. The flight ban is likely to hinder delivery of mail and medical supplies, although some flights for humanitarian and religious purposes are allowed under the sanctions.
The sanctions are designed to try to force the Taliban to surrender bin Laden, wanted by the United States on charges of plotting the bombing of two U.S. embassies in East Africa in August 1998. Bin Laden, who has lived in Afghanistan since 1996, has denied he was behind the attacks.
On Saturday, Afghan Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil appealed to the United Nations to delay or scrap the sanctions and renewed an offer to talk with the United States. But he reiterated that his government would not hand over bin Laden to the United States against his will.
In a related development, Albanian police working with the CIA arrested an Egyptian national suspected of being a bin Laden associate in Albania on Friday, security sources in that country said today.
They said the Albanian Justice Ministry had declared the man, identified as Abdul Saleh-U, unwelcome and extradited him. It was unclear where he was sent.