[Marxism] Huge crowd of Afghans protests reports of burning of Koran at U.S. base
lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Feb 21 06:58:09 MST 2012
Huge crowd of Afghans protests reports of burning of Koran at U.S. base
By Sayed Salahuddin and Kevin Sieff, Updated: Tuesday, February 21, 8:10 AM
BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan —Deeply angered over reports that U.S.
troops had burned copies of the Koran, Islam’s holy text, thousands of
protesters on Tuesday tried to storm the largest U.S. base in Afghanistan.
The protests erupted early in the morning, after Afghans working inside
the Bagram air base reported to local residents that a number of copies
of the Koran had been burned. The incident prompted the top U.S.
military officer in Afghanistan, Gen. John R. Allen, to offer a public
apology and order a prompt investigation.
“When we learned of these actions, we immediately intervened and stopped
them,” Allen said in a statement. “We are taking steps to ensure this
does not ever happen again. I assure you … I promise you … this was NOT
intentional in any way.”
Gen. Ahmad Amin Naseeb, who is in charge of the religious and cultural
affairs department at the Afghan defense ministry, said he had received
reports “that the international troops have burned and thrown copies of
Koran into the dust bins.” As a result, he said, “protesters have closed
various roads in the area.”
Proper treatment of the Koran is a highly sensitive issue for Muslims
across the world, including in Afghanistan, where international troops
are fighting to defeat the militantly Islamist Taliban in a war that has
entered its 11th year. Experts in Islam say copies of the Koran should
be buried or released in flowing waters if they need to be disposed of,
and burned only as a last resort.
Previous reports of Koran-burning also have led to violent protests
here. Last April, an angry mob killed at least seven foreigners in a
relatively secure part of northern Afghanistan and set fire to a United
Nations compound, as a protest over a Koran burning in Florida swelled
into chaotic violence.
More than 3,000 people were involved in Tuesday’s protests, which began
just after dawn, following the morning prayers, said Sayed Kheli, a
senior police officer for Parwan province, where Bagram is located.
Parwan’s deputy governor, Shah Wali, said local authorities were trying
to quell the demonstrators, who had gathered at various locations within
the sprawling base, about 30 miles north of Kabul.
“People’s sentiments have been hurt,” Wali said. “They are scattered on
various sides of the base and we are trying to establish contact with
the commander of the base.”
For hours on Tuesday morning, protesters threw rocks at the base,
breaking windows in some buildings. Many of the protesters were local
employees of the U.S. military who, feeling betrayed, chanted “long live
Islam” and “death to America.”
The road leading to the base was blocked, as Afghan and Western security
forces gathered near the front gate of the base to try and stop the
protesters from forcing their way in. Hundreds of Afghans who live in
Kabul but work on the base had no way to reach their jobs.
A small police outpost near the base was attacked when a foreign
journalist approached to talk to security officials.
Several protesters said charred pieces of the burned holy books were
smuggled out of the base by Afghans who work there and shown to
gathering protesters as proof of the incident. Word spread quickly
amongst Afghan employees that the sacred text had been desecrated.
“The materials recovered will be properly handled by appropriate
religious authorities,” Allen said in his statement.
The incident comes at a critical time for the United States, which wants
to wind down its military presence in Afghanistan but seeks to maintain
bases there after 2014, when most foreign troops are set to leave.
Anger against the foreign troops has been on the rise among Afghans,
because of continued night raids and civilian casualties during drone
attacks and other anti-Taliban operations.
Adding to the negative perception of U.S. troops was the release of a
video last month that showed four U.S. Marines urinating on the corpses
of dead Taliban fighters. Afghan President Hamid Karzai called the video
“completely inhumane and condemnable in the strongest possible terms.”
Top U.S. officials, including Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton also denounced the Marines’
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