Afghan anger rises with Taliban’s retaliation call
A wounded protester lies on the ground as Afghan policemen watches a protest in this photo. US, French and Norwegian bases were attacked by protesters. REUTERS photo
Protests following the burning of copies of the Quran in a NATO airbase swept across the country for a third day after Taliban’s retaliation call, as two NATO troops and three Afghans killed.
An Afghan soldier shot dead two NATO troops and French, Norwegian and U.S. bases were attacked by protesters at rallies killing three people, taking the two-day toll to 12, officials said. The attacks came after the Taliban urged Afghans to kill foreign troops to avenge the burning of Qurans at a U.S.-run base, although the militia stopped short of cutting off contacts with American officials in Qatar over the crisis.
“Our brave people must target the military bases of the invaders, their military convoys and their invader forces,” read an e-mailed Taliban statement released by the insurgency’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid. “They have to kill them (Westerners), beat them and capture them to give them a lesson to never dare desecrate the holy Quran again.”
Obama sends letter of apology
Yet Mujahid told Agence France-Presse that the incident would not affect contacts with U.S. officials in Qatar, designed to build confidence and pave the way for a prisoner exchange. “We condemn the desecration of the Holy Quran in the strongest terms, but this issue will not affect this process in Qatar,” he said.
NATO’s U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said two of its service members were killed in eastern Afghanistan by “an individual wearing an Afghan National Army uniform” who turned his weapon against the troops.
The Afghan president’s office said it has received a letter from President Barack Obama formally apologizing for the incident. The statement from President Hamid Karzai’s office said the U.S. ambassador delivered the letter yesterday, the Associated Press reported. In the letter, which is quoted in the statement, Obama expresses his “deep regret for the reported incident” and offers his “sincere apologies.”
According to the statement, Obama wrote: “The error was inadvertent; I assure you that we will take the appropriate steps to avoid any recurrence, to include holding accountable those responsible.” About 2,000 protesters also tried to march on the French base in Kapisa, east of Kabul, but were pushed back by Afghan security forces. And in northern Faryab province, there was an attempt to march on a Norwegian military base, said police chief Abdul Kahleq Aqsayee. “A group of some 100 teenagers marched toward the base of Norwegian forces on the outskirts of the city, throwing rocks and setting fire to vehicles. They dispersed when police intervened,” he said. On Feb. 22 Karzai called for calm as the Quran incident is investigated, and ordered his own security forces to avoid violence and protect people’s lives and property.