Obama And The Koran

Obama sent Afghan President Hamid Karzai a letter of apology over the burning of copies of the Koran overseen by a US officer at a US military base, Karzai’s office said Thursday. Obama said the incident was unintentional and pledged a full investigation, the president’s office said, as fierce anti-US protests swept the nation in which at least 14 people have died, including two American soldiers. Thousands of enraged Afghans have taken to the streets for a fourth day, after US soldiers inadvertently set fire to copies of the Koran. In the deadliest day of unrest so far, at least 12 people died across the country, as mobs charged at US bases and diplomatic missions.

Most Westerners were confined to their heavily fortified compounds, including the sprawling U.S. embassy complex and other embassies in central Kabul. Around 400 protesters hurled rocks and set fire to cars at a Norwegian-led military base in Faryab province on the Turkmen border, which is centre for around 500 soldiers and civilians from Norway, Latvia, Macedonia, Iceland and the United States. A small number protested at a French military base in the eastern Kapisa province but police deterred them successfully. Hundreds of protesting students in Jalalabad rejected any strategic pact with the United States, saying they would “take up jihad” if one were sealed. More than 20 people have been killed since the unrest began, including two US soldiers who died on Thursday.

President Barack Obama has apologised for the Koran-burning incident.

In a letter to his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai, Mr Obama said the books had been “unintentionally mishandled”.

US personnel apparently put the books into a rubbish incinerator at Bagram air base, near Kabul.

“I wish to express my deep regret for the reported incident,” Obama wrote in the letter presented to Karzai by US ambassador Ryan Crocker. “I extend to you and the Afghan people my sincere apologies.”

“The error was inadvertent; I assure you that we will take the appropriate steps to avoid any recurrence, to include holding accountable those responsible,” the letter said.

Karzai told members of parliament that a US officer was responsible for the burning that was done “out of ignorance”, his office said.

The incident at the US military base at Bagram north of Kabul sparked three days of fierce anti-US protests in which at least 12 protesters were killed.

A group of demonstrators tried to attack the US consulate in Herat city, burning police vehicles and leaving several officers injured.

Hospital officials confirmed four people had been killed, but it was unclear how they had died.

Another four people died near the town of Adraskan, 70km (45 miles) south of Herat city.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan:

* About 1,000 people took to the streets of Baghlan, north of Kabul, and one person was reported killed
* In Kabul, hundreds of people poured on to the streets to take part in several rallies after Friday prayers; police said a protester was shot and killed accidentally when other demonstrators opened fire
* Two demonstrators were killed in Khost province
* Several thousand people protesting in Nangarhar blocked a main road

Two American soldiers also died when an Afghan army colleague turned his weapon on them as demonstrators approached a US base in eastern Nangarhar province Thursday, the military and officials said.

Afghanistan wants NATO to put on public trial those who burned copies of the Koran at a NATO base, President Hamid Karzai’s office said on Thursday. NATO had agreed to a trial, but that could not be immediately confirmed. The Taliban urged Afghan security forces to “turn their guns on the foreign infidel invaders,” it said on its site shahamat-english.com. A U.S. official in Washington said two NATO soldiers killed by a man in Afghan army uniform were Americans. NATO confirmed a man in Afghan army uniform had killed two of its troops in the east, but declined to say if the shooting was connected to the protests. Muslims consider the Koran the literal word of God and treat each copy with deep reverence. Desecration is considered one of the worst forms of blasphemy.

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