Quran anger spills to neighboring countries
KABUL / ISLAMABAD
Afghan demonstrators run as they shout anti-US slogans in Kabul. Activists of Islamic Solidarity Movement (inset L) rally and hold banners during a protest in Bangladesh. Protesters (inset C) hold Qurans to protest the incident in Baghdad. Supporters of the Jamat-e-Islami party shout slogans during an anti-U. S rally in Peshawar. AFP photoTwelve people were killed Feb. 24 in the bloodiest day yet in protests over the burning of copies of the Quran at a NATO military base in Afghanistan, with riot police and soldiers on high alert and braced for more violence. Protests have also raged across other countries in the region including Pakistan, Iraq, Malaysia and Bangladesh.
Despite U.S. President Barack Obama sending a letter to Afghan President Hamid Karzai apologizing for the unintentional burnings, hundreds of Afghans marched toward the presidential palace in Kabul, while on the other side of the capital protesters hoisted the white flag of the Taliban. Chanting “Death to America!” and “Long live Islam!” protesters threw rocks at police, while Afghan army helicopters circled above.
Early withdrawal from Germany
Armed protesters took refuge in shops in the eastern part of the city, where they killed one demonstrator, according to police at the scene. In another Kabul rally, police said they were unsure who fired the shots that killed a second protester. Seven more protesters were killed in the western province of Herat, two more in eastern Khost province and one in the relatively peaceful northern Baghlan province, Reuters reported. In Herat, around 500 men charged at the U.S. consulate. In neighboring Pakistan hundreds of religious and hard-line activists took to the streets Feb. 24. Demonstrators called on Pakistani leaders to resign, with rallies organized in Islamabad, Karachi and the central shrine city of Multan, Agence France-Presse reported.
Protests have also spilled over into Iraq, Malaysia and Bangladesh, with hundreds rallying after Friday prayers. Meanwhile, Germany, which has the third-largest foreign presence in the NATO-led war, has pulled out of a small base in the northern Takhar province several weeks early due to security concerns, a defense ministry spokesman said. The unrest started Feb. 21, when Afghan workers at the American base noticed that Qurans and other Islamic texts were in the trash that coalition troops had dumped into a pit where garbage is burned.
CONDEMNATION FROM ANKARA
Turkey “strongly” condemned Feb. 24 the burning of Qurans at a NATO compound in Afghanistan, stressing it had conveyed its resentment to a top NATO commander who visited Ankara this week. The incident caused “great indignation” in Ankara, which last week marked the 60th anniversary of its NATO membership, a Foreign Ministry statement said. “Our reactions to the incident were conveyed to Supreme Allied Commander Europe James Stavridis.” The statement said necessary warnings had been made within NATO to prevent the repetition of such incidents.