Obama sends letter of apology to Afghan president over Koran burning

 

President Barack Obama apologised today for the burning of copies of
the Muslim holy book at a US military base this week, as violent
protests raging nationwide led a man dressed in an Afghan army uniform
to kill two US troops.

The Afghans' furious response to the Koran burning — three days of riots in several cities nationwide — reflected the anger at what they perceive as foreign forces disrespect for Afghan laws and culture.

In a letter sent to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Obama expressed his administration's "regret and apologies over the incident in which religious materials were unintentionally mishandled," White House national security council spokesman Tommy Vietor said. He added that the letter was delivered by Ryan Crocker, the US ambassador to Afghanistan, Thursday afternoon.

Karzai's office said Obama called the Koranburnings "inadvertent," adding that the U.S. "will take the appropriate steps to avoid any recurrence, to include holding accountable those responsible."

U.S. apologies for the desecration — and an appeal from Karzai for calm — have failed to temper the anger of Afghans, who staged rallies in seven provinces Thursday, sparking clashes with Afghan police and security forces that left at least five demonstrators dead. Seven protesters were killed in clashes on Wednesday.

The two Nato service members were killed in eastern Afghanistan by a man dressed in an Afghan army uniform. Both troops were Americans, according to a US official, who confirmed their nationalities on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose the information.

Mohammad Hassan, an official in Nangarhar province where the shooting took place, said the two Americans were shot by an Afghan soldier after soldiers fired in the air to disperse protesters outside a US base in the Khogyani district. Two protesters were also killed in the ensuing gunfire, Afghan officials said.

A rising number of Afghan security forces, or militants wearing their uniforms, have shot and killed US and Nato service members.

The Taliban called on Afghans to attack foreign troops, and their spokesman has issued a statement ordering its commanders to embrace and protect the families of any Afghan policeman or soldier who turns his gun on foreign troops. "Call them heroes," he said.

Protesters also rioted outside a US base in Mehterlam, the capital of Laghman province. Police broke up a demonstration using water cannons and batons after protesters tried to storm the base.

"Hundreds of our people in Laghman province gathered because of the burning of the holy book by the Americans," said protester Mohammad Issa.

"Everyone is so emotional. The burning of the Koran broke our hearts and we are attacking the PRT because they are American," he said, using the acronym for the provincial reconstruction team.

In Oslo, Norwegian military spokesman Ivar Moen said a Norwegian soldier was wounded after demonstrators threw a hand grenade into a military base in Maimanah, in northwestern Faryab province where Norwegian, Latvian, Afghan and U.S. troops are deployed.

The soldier was wounded after up to 200 demonstrators hurled rocks at the base and shouted epithets. Norwegian troops responded with warning shots and tear gas. Moen said the demonstration was over, but new protests are expected tomorrow.

In the city of Baghlan in the north, clashes between police and protesters attacking the police headquarters left one person dead. Police said 10 officers were also wounded, two from gunshot wounds.

Police said another two protesters were killed and six wounded in another exchange of gunfire during a protest in southern Uruzgan province.

The riots erupted Tuesday after Afghan workers at the main American military base, Bagram Air Field, saw soldiers dumping books in a pit where garbage is burned and noticed Korans and other religious material among the trash.

The top US and Nato commander, Gen. John Allen, quickly issued an apology and telephoned Karzai and major news organizations to explain that a collection of religious materials, including Korans, had mistakenly been sent to be incinerated. As soon as someone realized what they were burning, they stopped and retrieved what was left, Allen said.

Karzai also met Thursday with parliamentarians — many of whom had called Wednesday for Afghans to wage a holy war against international forces. He told them that a U.S. officer responsible for the incident "didn't understand" what he was doing and the United States "accepted the mistake of its officer."

He commended the US government for "acting quickly regarding this issue and apologizing." Karzai said that he was most concerned with making sure that such acts are not repeated.

Four copies of the Koran were burned before the incineration was halted, according to initial Afghan government reports.

Nato and Afghan investigators on Wednesday visited the Parwan detention facility, where the Korans were taken from. US officials said they had been removed from the shelves of the facility's library because they contained extremist messages or inscriptions. The White House said it was an accident that they were sent to be burned.

AP

News
Alex Salmond said he accepted 'the democratic verdict of the people'
newsSNP leader says Scotland must move forward as 'one nation'
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 4 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 4 Primary Teachers needed Randst...

Sessional ICT Teacher - GCSE

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: ICT teacher job in Humberside. ...

Year 6 Teacher - January start

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are looking fo...

History Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are looking fo...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week