KABUL – A demonstration in Kabul over nixed plans by a Florida pastor to burn Korans turned violent Wednesday as police officers and demonstrators exchanged gunfire, Afghan officials said.

At least 37 police officers and eight Afghans were wounded as police were assaulted with rocks and bullets when they moved in on demonstrators in a poor southwest Kabul neighborhood about 7:30 a.m., according to Mohamed Zahir, the chief of the Kabul police criminal investigations division.

The rare outbreak of violence in the Afghan capital illustrated how viscerally many Muslims have reacted to Florida pastor Terry Jones’ since-canceled plan to burn copies of Islam’s holy book triggered widespread consternation.

The incident also underscores the tenuous security situation in the country ahead of Saturday’s parliamentary election, which the Taliban has threatened to disrupt with attacks.

Zahir said investigators suspect Taliban members instigated the protest in an effort to stoke anti-American sentiment.

Demonstrators were chanting, “Down with the U.S., down with the people who help them.”