Photo caption: Afghan youth throw stones toward U.S. soldiers standing at the gate of Bagram airbase during a protest yesterday against NATO for burning copies of the Koran.
The Washington Post reports: Deeply angered over reports that U.S. troops had burned copies of the Koran, Islam’s holy text, thousands of protesters tried to storm the largest U.S. base today 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.