President Barack Obama has apologized to the Afghan people for the burning of Korans by American troops at a US base.
The President was responding to violent protests that have left at least five dead and others wounded yesterday as demonstrations over Koran burning intensified in Afghanistan.
This is sadly reminiscent of events last April, when Terry Jones, a pastor from Gainesville, Florida burned a Koran. Although hardly noticed in the U.S., his actions sparked a riot in Afghanistan that killed at least 12 people.
Korans Among Religious Materials That Had “Extremist Communications”
This time the Korans were reportedly among religious materials removed from a detainee facility at Bagram Airfield.
The materials were gathered for disposal and were inadvertently given to troops for burning, Gen. John Allen, commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, said Tuesday.
“This was not a decision that was made because they were religious materials,” he said. “It was not a decision that was made with respect to the faith of Islam. It was a mistake. It was an error. The moment we found out about it, we immediately stopped and we intervened.”
A military official said the materials were removed from the detainee center’s library because they had “extremist inscriptions” on them and there was “an appearance that these documents were being used to facilitate extremist communications.”
Mr. Obama Expresses “Deep Regret”
In his letter to President Hamid Karzai, Mr Obama expressed his “deep regret” and said the incident earlier this week was a genuine mistake. The letter was delivered by the US ambassador to Afghanistan and assured the Afghan president that US authorities would question all those responsible.
From the BBC:
“I convey my deep sympathies and ask you and the people to accept my deep apologies,” the letter said.
“The error was inadvertent; I assure you that we will take the appropriate steps to avoid any recurrence, to include holding accountable those responsible,” it continued.
President Karzai told members of the Afghan parliament that a US officer was responsible for the burning, but added that his action was done out of ignorance.
How Did US Authorities Allow This To Happen?
But that hasn’t stopped the crowds Crowds shouting “death to Obama,” throwing stones and setting fire to the US flag.
Meanwhile the Taliban has called on Afghans to kill and beat all invading forces in revenge for “insulting” the Koran.
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul went into lockdown as the protests entered a second day Wednesday.
On Tuesday, thousands of demonstrators gathered outside a detention facility in Parwan, according to Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson, a coalition spokesman. He said protesters tried to penetrate the facility, prompting NATO helicopter to launch flares and authorities to fire rubber bullets to disperse the crowds.
On Wednesday, about 500 people rallied in Kabul, including university students who marched toward the Parliament building, police said.
It’s hard to fathom how authorities couldn’t understand how sensitive this issue is, and why this was such a dangerous course of action. What were they thinking?
Photo Credit: rutty