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Bagram: US apologizes for burning Qurans

- February 22, 2012 - Updated 145 PKT - From Web Edition

BAGRAM: U.S. helicopters fired flares to disperse hundreds of angry Afghans who massed outside the main U.S. military base in Afghanistan on Tuesday after hearing staff there had burned copies of the Quran.


Defense Secretary Leon Panetta issued an apology for "inappropriate treatment" of Islam's holy book at the base to try and contain fury over the incident - a public relations disaster for Washington as it tries to pacify the country ahead of the withdrawal of foreign troops in 2014.


Protesters started to gather after Afghan laborers found charred remains of copies of the Quran as they collected rubbish from Bagram airbase, the provincial governor's office said in a statement.


As many as 2,000 Afghans massed outside several gates to the base, the main center for NATO-led forces just north of the capital Kabul, chanting anti-foreigner slogans and throwing stones, said Reuters reporters at the scene.


Both Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the Taliban in Afghanistan condemned the incident, both of them saying the values of Islam had been "degraded."


Winning the hearts and minds of Afghans is critical to U.S. efforts to defeating the Taliban, but critics say Western forces often fail to grasp Afghanistan's religious and cultural sensitivities.


A senior U.S. official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said staff at Bagram had decided to remove "extremist literature" and other materials left in a library in the base's detention block.


"They (the materials) were taken out of the library for good reason but they were being disposed of in a bad way," the official said.

"There was a breakdown in judgment in this matter but there was no breakdown in our respect for Islam," the official added.


Panetta said NATO had ordered an investigation into the "deeply unfortunate" incident, in a statement issued by the Pentagon.


NATO's top general in Afghanistan General John Allen apologized for "actions" at the base and said a new order had been given to all coalition forces in Afghanistan to take part in training in the proper handling of religious materials.


"This was not intentional in any way," said Allen, the head of Afghanistan's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).


"I offer my sincere apologies for any offence this may have caused, to the president of Afghanistan, the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and most importantly, to the noble people of Afghanistan," he added.


The apologies did little to ease the anger.


"We want them out of our country now," said Zmari, 30, a protester who has a shop near Bagram.


"We Afghans don't want these Christians and infidels, they are the enemy of our soil, our honor and our Quran," said Haji Shirin, one of the protesters at the heavily fortified compound, which is home to 30,000 foreign troops and civilians.


"I urge all Muslims to sacrifice themselves in order to pull out these troops from this soil."


President Karzai's office condemned the incident and said the president had appointed a delegation of senior clerics to investigate how it occurred.


"Based on initial reports, four copies of the holy Quran have been burned and the holiest values (of Islam) been degraded," a statement from Karzai's office said.


The Afghan Taliban also strongly condemned the incident.

"Since the invasion of Afghanistan by the animal Americans, this is almost the 10th time that they have degraded the holiest values of Muslims," said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid in an emailed statement.


Bagram houses a prison for Afghans detained by American forces. The center has caused resentment among Afghans because of reports of torture and ill-treatment of suspected Taliban prisoners.


Protests raged for three days across Afghanistan in April last year after a U.S. pastor burned a Quran in Florida. (Reuters)

Reader Comments
Their actions are shameless and they have no moral values. There only moral in history is to Kill innocent masses and impose their so-called victory through state terror. These Pig-eating infidels are the most disgracful and dirty minded criminals. How could you expect from these animals to have respect for God and His Prophet's names??? These are the people who will burn in hell, thats where they belong. Glory To Be To God & His Prophets. God is The Greatest.

United Kingdom
Why burn Quran?? What is wrong with the "So Civilized Americans"... is this a genuine mistake or deliberate provocation???

Munir q
United Kingdom
ISAF Head offered sincere apologies to the President, Government and People of Afghanistan for the Quran burning. "This was not intentional in any way," said Allen, the head of (ISAF). c.f. Yet,NATO has not apologized for killing 24 Pakistani soldiers saying that it was 'not intentional'. Refusal to apologize means that it was deliberate. Even if an apology is eventually extracted it would have lost its impact and would be for self serving purposes.

O B Server
If we look back such incidents are happening with gaps of few years and Americans are one way or the other involved. This clearly means, its all planned. The surprise is, with all this these idiots claim to be the CIVILIZED WORLD. Shame on you civilized people.

Asima Jaffery
American forces care little for the sentiments of the people whose countries they have invaded which include Afghanistan and Iraq.They have been molesting men and women and the holiest Book Of Islam.They do it intentionally to spark outrage and to make Muslim humiliated.This unacceptable action promotes the cause of the terrorist.These beasts have to be tried for their war crimes and crimes against humanity.Muslims are too weak to do that and that is why they are being humiliated ZAFAR RANJHA

zafar ranjha
Go ahead do the deed and apologies later, the soldiers in US Army has no respect for Afghan culture or religion, they are there to kill and win but winning is illusive even after 10years.Why don't they remember Viet Nam and Russians humiliation in Afghanistan.These are the same soldiers who urinated on dead bodies of Afghans, they come home and are called heroes.But these heroes just can't win in Afghanistan, can they.Now they are negotiating with Taliban and come back to be called heroes.

naeem khan
shame on those, who do not respect religion. These people know that Holy QURAN consists the names of MOSES & CHRIST as well, and they poose a shame to their own faith.

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