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Restraint urged for troops amid Afghan unrest

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan called on his troops to resist any urge to avenge the death of two American soldiers killed in riots over the burning of Qurans at a U.S. base, even as renewed protests Friday claimed at least seven lives.

The anti-American demonstrations by thousands of Afghans who took to the streets after midday prayers were further evidence that President Obama's apology has failed to quiet the outrage over what the United States says was the inadvertent destruction of the holy books.

The killing of the two U.S. soldiers and the civil unrest have further strained Afghanistan's relations with the United States. Afghan President Hamid Karzai is trying to negotiate a long-term partnership agreement with the United States to govern the activities of U.S. forces in his country after 2014, when most foreign combat troops will have left or taken on support roles.

The violence against coalition troops also comes at a time when many countries contributing to the force are seeking to accelerate their withdrawal from what has become an unpopular and costly war.

At least 20 people, including the two U.S. soldiers, have been killed in four days of violence.

Protesters have ignored appeals by Karzai, parliamentarians and some clerics for an end to the violence until an investigation into the incident at Bagram Air Field is concluded in coming days. Afghan officials said seven people were killed around the country Friday by Afghan security forces trying to disperse crowds or responding to gunfire from protesters.

Anti-American protesters gathered in several locations around Kabul, including in the city's east, where a demonstrator, his clothes covered in blood, was carried from the scene as about 200 police tried to push the crowd back.

U.S. Gen. John Allen, who commands all U.S. and coalition troops, traveled late Thursday to the American base in the east where an Afghan soldier opened fire on U.S. troops, killing two Americans.

"There will be moments like this when you're searching for the meaning of this loss. There will be moments like this when your emotions are governed by anger and a desire to strike back," Allen said in comments NATO released Friday.

"Now is not the time for revenge. Now is not the time for vengeance. Now is the time to look deep inside your souls, remember your mission, remember your discipline, remember who you are."

In the United States, a senior Pentagon official reached out to American Muslims, offering an apology Friday during prayer services at one of the nation's largest mosques, in suburban Washington.

"I come here today to apologize on behalf of the Department of Defense for the incident that took place in Afghanistan this week," Peter Lavoy, acting assistant secretary of defense for Asia and Pacific security affairs, told worshippers at the ADAMS Center in Sterling, Va.

Pentagon press secretary George Little said the appearance was part of a broad effort by the administration to try to defuse the controversy.