British troops sent to riot-hit Afghan town

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The Independent Online

The UK's Quick Response Force (QRF) was deployed to Maymana after reports that international reconstruction teams there were under threat.

A crowd of up to 300 demonstrators were said to have thrown stones at the Norwegians.

The British unit - part of the Nato operations in the country - is based at Mazar-al-Sharif and involves the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment.

United Nations staff have already been evacuated from the city amid violent protests against publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in a Danish paper.

A Nato spokesman in Kabul, Warrant Officer Cosimo Argentieri, said British troops were being rushed to Maymana to secure the airfield there.

Armed protesters attacked the main Nato base in the remote northern town, burning an armoured vehicle, a UN car and guard posts, reports said.

One protester was said to have been shot dead and two Norwegian soldiers injured, one by a splinter from a grenade and the other by flying rock.

Two Finnish soldiers were also hurt at the base, Nato said.

The emergency mission came as Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram visited RAF crews who are due to leave for a dangerous region of Afghanistan shortly.

Mr Ingram chatted to the personnel of 18 Squadron based at RAF Odiham in Hampshire, just days before they send three Chinook heavy lift helicopters to Afghanistan to pave the way for a substantial British military deployment to the region in the summer.

The helicopters will assist Royal Engineers to build a base for about 5,000 UK troops who are part of a multinational peacekeeping force in the country.

The British military contingent is hoping to bring democracy to the Helmand area, which has a strong Taliban and opium-growing presence.

Mr Ingram said at the base: "We always said this would be a difficult task. We do not know how difficult until we get there. We are ready for the worst and hopefully that will not happen.

"I know precisely how difficult their task is and I'm immensely proud of their outstanding achievements and unswerving commitment."

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