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Afghanistan: Riots over US Koran 'desecration'
by BBC (reposted)
Wednesday May 11th, 2005 8:45 AM
At least four people have been killed and many injured after police opened fire to break up an anti-US protest in eastern Afghanistan, officials say.

Hundreds of students rioted in the city of Jalalabad over reports interrogators at America's Guantanamo Bay prison had placed copies of the Koran on toilets.

The city is now said to be calm after widespread damage to property. All but essential UN staff are being withdrawn.

The US authorities have said they are investigating the Koran allegations.

"Obviously the destruction of any kind of holy book... is something that is reprehensible and not in keeping with US policies and practices," state department spokesman Tom Casey said.

President Hamid Karzai said the violence showed the inability of Afghan authorities to handle such protests.

Speaking at Nato headquarters in Brussels, he said his country would need international assistance "for many, many years to come".

Buildings burned down

Afghan National Army soldiers were deployed on the streets of Jalalabad, which lies 130km (80 miles) east of Kabul and is close to the Pakistani border, to try to bring order.

A US military spokesman said US units were not deployed.

The Afghan interior ministry says four people were killed, and more than 70 injured. "Police opened fire in the air to control the mob, and some people were injured," Jalalabad police chief, Abdul Rehman, told the AFP news agency.

Two United Nations guest houses were attacked, as were shops and government buildings, and the offices of two international aid groups were destroyed.

Many foreign aid agency personnel are being pulled out too.

Pakistani ambassador to Afghanistan, Rustam Shah Mohmand, told the BBC the Pakistani consul's house had also been burned down and two cars torched.

The protesters chanted "Death to America" and smashed car windows and damaged shops.

Smoke could be seen rising from various points in the city.

One international aid worker in Jalalabad told the BBC there were groups of people running along the streets, reportedly looking for foreigners and anyone working for non-governmental organisations.

Another eyewitness said: "They were shouting anti-Karzai and anti-Bush slogans. Angry demonstrators carrying sticks and stones clashed with police forces in the city centre."

There were also reports of anti-US protests in the south-eastern city of Khost, and in Laghman province, where a demonstration was dispersed peacefully by police.

BBC correspondents say many Afghans are angry at what they regard as heavy-handed tactics used by American forces in their country.

Aid agencies have also become a focus of resentment for many Afghans who feel they have yet to see the benefit of the billions of dollars of international aid money pumped into the country.

Reports of abuse

The unrest follows a report in the American magazine, Newsweek, that interrogators at Guantanamo Bay had placed copies of the Koran on toilets in order to put pressure on Muslim prisoners.

Former Guantanamo inmates told the BBC Urdu service earlier this month that some Arab prisoners had still not spoken to their interrogators after three years to protest at the desecration of the Koran by guards at the camp.

On Sunday, the Pakistani government said it was "deeply dismayed" over the reports about the Koran.

Islamist parties there have called for a nationwide strike on Friday.

Both Pakistan and Afghanistan are close allies of the US in its war against terror.

Insulting the Koran or Islam's Prophet Mohammed is regarded as blasphemy and punishable by death in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The US is holding about 520 inmates at Guantanamo Bay, many of them al-Qaeda and Taleban suspects captured in Pakistan and Afghanistan following the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US and subsequent US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4535491.stm
by Student rioters shot dead
Wednesday May 11th, 2005 5:40 PM
Student rioters shot dead
By Catherine Philp, South Asia Correspondent
FOUR protesters were shot dead and dozens more were injured in Jalalabad yesterday when Afghan police opened fire to control thousands of rioting students enraged by reports of the desecration of the Koran by American interrogators at Guantanamo Bay. Shouting “Death to America”, the demonstrators set fire to American flags and an effigy of President Bush before they set off on a rampage through the city in the most violent show of anti-American sentiment since the fall of the Taleban.

An American patrol passing through the city was stoned and the soldiers fired in the air to scare away the crowd before withdrawing to their base. Then armed Afghan police fired on the crowd, killing four people and injuring fifty.

Witnesses said that the mob became even more enraged after the shooting, moving on to set fire to the Governor’s house and the offices of several foreign aid agencies as frightened aid workers huddled on the rooftop awaiting rescue. Several diplomatic compounds were also attacked, including the Pakistani Consulate.

The demonstrations began a day earlier, prompted by a report in Newsweek magazine that interrogators at Guantanamo Bay, the US military base in Cuba where terrorist and Taleban suspects are being held, had placed Korans on lavatories in an attempt to rattle their owners and, in at least one case, flushed away the holy book. The top American official in Kabul said that the Pentagon would be holding an investigation into the “serious allegations”, adding that “disrespect towards the holy book of any religion is unacceptable”.

Witnesses in Jalalabad said that the rioters had also demanded the release of all prisoners from Guantanamo and a promise that “American troops don’t stay in Afghanistan for ever”. Both subjects are likely to come up when President Karzai meets Mr Bush in Washington this month.

Mr Karzai, who is in Brussels for talks at the headquarters of Nato about proposals to expand its role in Afghanistan, said that the riots showed the inability of security institutions to cope and that such freedom of expression was proof that democracy was taking root.

The riots came after demands by the Pakistani Government for an inquiry at Guantanamo Bay.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-1608334,00.html
by update
Thursday May 12th, 2005 9:41 AM
KABUL, Afghanistan May 12, 2005 — Police clashed with anti-U.S. demonstrators in two Afghan towns, killing at least three people, and Afghan students burned an American flag in Kabul on Thursday as protests spread over reported abuse of Islam's holy book at the U.S. jail in Guantanamo Bay.

The unrest came a day after riots in the eastern city of Jalalabad left four people dead the worst anti-American protests in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

While most of the protesters appeared to be students, officials have suggested that elements opposed to the country's U.S.-backed re-emergence were stirring the violence, which also has targeted the United Nations and American troops.

"It's the symbols of this change in Afghanistan that have been singled out," said Paul Barker, director of CARE International, one of the largest international relief groups in Afghanistan. "There are probably people around the country inciting this."

Police fired on hundreds of anti-U.S. demonstrators Thursday in the town of Khogyani to prevent them from departing toward Jalalabad, about 20 miles to the north, local police chief Maj. Gul Wali said.

Wali said three of the protesters died and one was injured. He claimed many at the gathering were armed.

However, Interior Ministry spokesman Latufallah Mashal said only two people died in Khogyani, while a third protester died in a separate clash with police in Wardak province, south of Kabul. The discrepancy couldn't immediately be reconciled.

In Kabul, more than 200 young men marched from a dormitory block near Kabul University chanting "Death to America!" and carrying banners including one stating: "Those who insult the Quran should be brought to justice."

At the entrance to the university, a man with a clipped beard and spectacles read a resolution calling on President Bush to apologize and opposing long-term U.S. military bases in Afghanistan.

About two dozen students clambered onto the roof of a nearby building and burned an American flag to applause and cries of "God is great!" from the crowd below. Dozens of police some armed with sticks, others with assault rifles looked on.

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=751084
by updates
Thursday May 12th, 2005 12:38 PM
THE biggest anti-US protests since the fall of the Taliban have spread across Afghanistan as unrest sparked by alleged abuse of the Koran at the US jail in Guantanamo Bay left three more people dead.

Seven people have been killed and at least 76 injured during three days of violent demonstrations, all of them in clashes with security forces and police in conservative towns east of the capital Kabul.

Angry Afghans shouting "Death to America" poured onto the streets of Kabul itself for the first time today and protests at the reported religious slur have now broken out in 10 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces.

The Koran controversy has also spread to Pakistan, where demonstrations were held in Peshwar and Quetta, two major cities close to the border with Afghanistan.

Two protesters were killed when gunfire broke out as police stopped them marching into the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad from a district just to the north-west, a provincial official said.

Jalalabad was the scene of a major riot yesterday in which four people died when police opened fire to control a mob that torched the buildings of several aid agencies, the Pakistani consulate and the governor's house.

"Two demonstrators died and one was seriously injured in Khogyani district today after armed protesters opened fire at police," deputy governor of Nangarhar province Mohammad Asif Qazizada said.

However, a provincial spokesman said earlier that security forces had opened fire on a gathering of 100 villagers in Khagyani.

Meanwhile, one person died and four were wounded when rioters attacked a police station in Chak district of Wardak province, which borders Kabul, and a weapons store exploded, interior ministry spokesman Lutfullah Mashal said.

The protests were sparked by a small report in Newsweek magazine last week that interrogators at the US military detention centre in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, desecrated copies of the Koran by leaving them in toilet cubicles and even stuffing one down a lavatory to rattle Muslim prisoners.

In Kabul, student demonstrators shouted slogans calling on US President George W Bush to apologise to Islamic countries and set a US flag ablaze. The protest ended peacefully.

Thousands of people also took to the streets in the northern provinces of Parwan, Kapisa and Takhar, Laghman in the east, Logar and Khost in the south-east and the southern province of Kandahar.

The United Nations and foreign aid agencies evacuated hundreds of workers from Jalalabad fearing further violence.

Veteran Afghan analyst Rahimullah Yusufzai said the protests gave the public a chance to vent their anger at President Hamid Karzai's government and the United States itself, but were unlikely to be coordinated.

"This is the biggest protest campaign in Afghanistan since the ouster of Taliban regime. This is bloody, widespread and countrywide," the Pakistan-based analyst said.

"This also shows that they are fed up with the United States and they just needed a spark to vent their feelings," he said.

Jalalabad was the scene of a major riot yesterday in which four people died when police opened fire to control a mob that torched the buildings of several aid agencies, the Pakistani consulate and the governor's house.

"Two demonstrators died and one was seriously injured in Khogyani district today after armed protesters opened fire at police," deputy governor of Nangarhar province Mohammad Asif Qazizada said.

However, a provincial spokesman said earlier that security forces had opened fire on a gathering of 100 villagers in Khagyani.

Meanwhile, one person died and four were wounded when rioters attacked a police station in Chak district of Wardak province, which borders Kabul, and a weapons store exploded, interior ministry spokesman Lutfullah Mashal said.

The protests were sparked by a small report in Newsweek magazine last week that interrogators at the US military detention centre in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, desecrated copies of the Koran by leaving them in toilet cubicles and even stuffing one down a lavatory to rattle Muslim prisoners.

In Kabul, student demonstrators shouted slogans calling on US President George W Bush to apologise to Islamic countries and set a US flag ablaze. The protest ended peacefully.

Thousands of people also took to the streets in the northern provinces of Parwan, Kapisa and Takhar, Laghman in the east, Logar and Khost in the south-east and the southern province of Kandahar.

The United Nations and foreign aid agencies evacuated hundreds of workers from Jalalabad fearing further violence.

Veteran Afghan analyst Rahimullah Yusufzai said the protests gave the public a chance to vent their anger at President Hamid Karzai's government and the United States itself, but were unlikely to be coordinated.

"This is the biggest protest campaign in Afghanistan since the ouster of Taliban regime. This is bloody, widespread and countrywide," the Pakistan-based analyst said.

"This also shows that they are fed up with the United States and they just needed a spark to vent their feelings," he said.
by RWF
( restes60 [at] earthlink.net ) Thursday May 12th, 2005 12:44 PM
the US/CIVIC approach for dealing with Afghanistan

apparently, it hasn't persuaded the Afghans to find occupation any more agreeable than the Iraqis do


--Richard
by Haseeb Mohammed
( haseebmohammed_2007 [at] yahoo.com ) Saturday May 14th, 2005 7:25 AM
The desecration of Koran clearly tells that the American interrogators are from a barbaric nation.Today the world has seen what the american society is all about.If iam correct at One time said that the madarasa's were teaching terrorism.But american's have proved that they were in fact wrong because they are terrorising every community,nation,culture and individual.America is the birth place of terrorism
by Joel
Monday May 16th, 2005 4:48 AM
Funny how newsweek now says that it might not have happened. Was this a case of them running an inflamatory, unfounded story to get more sales?

As for Afghans hating us, I just took a drive through Kabul. This place and Iraq are worlds apart attitude wise.
The ones who truly hate us are the poppy growers. Because we cut and burn their crops, damn Americans.

I won't be staying i this city long, but it looks good. Not the way a rich country looks, but signs of construction are abundant.

As for hating muslims, most of the guys I work with don't care who you are, just how you act.
by yep
Monday May 16th, 2005 8:43 AM
We live in a world where the means of communication are so sophisticated and swift that they can stir up violent emotions almost instantly in some of the least advanced countries in the world.

As a result policies are destroyed, buildings are torched, and people killed even before the initial report can be verified.

On 9 May, the US magazine Newsweek printed a paragraph that read: "Investigators probing interrogation abuses at the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay have confirmed some infractions alleged in internal FBI e-mails that surfaced late last year. Among the previously unreported cases, sources tell Newsweek: interrogators, in an attempt to rattle suspects, flushed a Koran down a toilet and led a detainee around with a collar and dog leash."

The item, with its reference to the mistreatment of the Koran, was spotted by someone on the Arabic-language television news channel al-Jazeera and broadcast as a news report.

Since then, there have been violent riots in at least six areas: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Sudan, the Palestinian territories and Indonesia. A dozen or more people have died.

A spokesman for the Pentagon in Washington put the blame squarely on Newsweek. "People are dying," he said. "They are burning American flags. Our forces are in danger."

Strong accusations

The pressure was on Newsweek to retract its report. The magazine checked with its source - a senior US official - who confirmed that he had come across references to the mistreatment of the Koran in the results of an US investigation into the mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo.

But he was no longer certain that they had come from the specific report he had originally named.

This was immediately greeted in the US as a sign that Newsweek had backed down, though nothing in the Newsweek statement indicated that it had.

These are not even the first allegations that US guards and interrogators have desecrated the Koran in order to frighten prisoners or humiliate them.

On his website the respected US authority on the Middle East, Professor Juan Cole of the University of Michigan, carries a despatch from the Italian news agency Ansa on 18 August 2004. It quotes accusations from former Guantanamo prisoners that a Koran was thrown into a toilet.

Perhaps these specific allegations are true, and perhaps they are not. But people tend to believe them, because there have been so many other allegations of deliberate anti-Islamic acts from Guantanamo, Afghanistan and Iraq - of prisoners being forced against their religious convictions to shave their beards, and even to eat pig-meat.

The shaving clearly happened: there is pictorial evidence for that. As for the forcible feeding of pork and bacon, and the desecration of the Koran itself, these things have not been proven. But such reports are instantly believed across the Islamic world.

So should Newsweek have reported the Koran allegation, given its inflammatory nature? It looks very much as though the magazine's editors had no idea that it would be taken up so widely, or cause so much trouble.

And what about al-Jazeera? Should it have rebroadcast it, knowing how fiercely the allegation would be received by Muslims around the world?

Media under fire

The weakness of the story lies, as the Pentagon spotted immediately, in the vagueness of its sourcing, though Newsweek was perfectly clear that the source was an official who had seen the detail about the Koran in an official report.

With hindsight, perhaps, the magazine would have been more comfortable if it had had more details. But it did not try to deceive its readers about the story.

Yet since this was by no means the first time that allegations of the desecration of the Koran by US guards and interrogators have emerged, Newsweek may not have been as concerned as it might otherwise have been.

What about al-Jazeera's part in the affair? Well, if news broadcasting is about telling people what is of interest to them, then the station was only doing its job - even if that job is something which the UK and US governments often dislike and suspect. (A leading adviser to the White House habitually calls al-Jazeera "the enemy".) All al-Jazeera did was to report what Newsweek was saying.

It is hard to avoid the inference that the people who are really to blame are the men and women who have abused their prisoners, not those who have reported allegations about the ill treatment.

What happened in prisons like Guantanamo, Bagram and Abu Ghraib after 2001 has done serious damage to the United States and its allies: not just the dwindling number who still have troops in Iraq, but the new governments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Do not blame the news media for this. Instead, all the effort needs to go into convincing the world that the abuse has stopped, and will never be allowed to start again.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4551149.stm

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Muslims in Afghanistan and Pakistan were skeptical after a U.S. magazine backed away from a report that U.S. interrogators desecrated copies of the Quran while questioning prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

The account in Newsweek magazine's May 9 issue has been blamed for sparking deadly riots in Afghanistan and other parts of the Muslim world.

On Sunday, Newsweek backed away from the report and offered its sympathies "to victims of the violence and to the U.S. soldiers caught in its midst." (Full story)

But Muslims said they suspected that pressure from Washington was behind the magazine's climbdown, Reuters reported Monday.

"We will not be deceived by this," Islamic cleric Mullah Sadullah Abu Aman told Reuters in the northern Afghan province of Badakhshan.

"This is a decision by America to save itself. It comes because of American pressure. Even an ordinary illiterate peasant understands this and won't accept it."

On Sunday, a group of clerics led by Aman vowed to call for a jihad, or holy war, against the United States in three days unless it handed over the interrogators reported to have desecrated the Quran.

He said the call for a holy war still stood. In the May 9 story, Newsweek cited sources as saying investigators looking into abuses at the military prison found interrogators "had placed Qurans on toilets, and in at least one case flushed a holy book down the toilet."

CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen said "desecrating the Quran is a death-penalty offense" in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan.

The Pentagon said last week it was unable to corroborate any case in which interrogators at the U.S. Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, defiled the Muslim holy book, as Newsweek reported.

At least 15 people were killed and dozens injured last week when thousands of demonstrators marched in Afghanistan and other parts of the Muslim world, officials and eyewitnesses said.

"Top administration officials have promised to continue looking into the charges, and so will we," Newsweek Editor Mark Whitaker wrote in the magazine's May 23 issue, out Sunday.

"But we regret that we got any part of our story wrong, and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the U.S. soldiers caught in its midst."

Some Afghans, however, were unconvinced.

"It's not acceptable now that the magazine says it's made a mistake," Reuters quoted 42-year-old writer and journalist Hafizullah Torab as saying. "No one will accept it."

Sayed Elyas Sedaqat, who heads a cultural group in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, where the protests began last Tuesday, said: "Possibly, the American government put pressure on the magazine to issue the retraction to avoid the anger of Muslims."

In neighboring Pakistan, a religious party said it was going ahead with a call for protests on May 27.

"Newsweek is backtracking, but it's not just their report," said Ghaffar Aziz, a top official of the Jamaat-e-Islami party. "All innocent people released from U.S. custody have said on the record that there was desecration of the Koran."

http://edition.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/asiapcf/05/16/newsweek.quran.intl/
by more
Monday May 16th, 2005 8:50 AM
British former detainees at Guantanamo Bay have backed disputed claims that US interrogators abused the Koran in a "systematic and horrific assault on Islam".

Moazzam Begg, Feroz Abbasi, Jamal al Harith and Tarek Dergoul allege that jailers defiled the Muslim holy book at US military bases in Cuba and Afghanistan.

A report said a hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay was prompted after a guard allegedly stamped on the Koran, and includes details on how the sacred tome was put in toilet buckets, stamped on, shredded and belittled.

Newsweek magazine has apologised for errors in a story earlier this month alleging desecration by interrogators at Guantanamo Bay, saying it would re-examine the accusations, which sparked outrage and deadly protests in Afghanistan.

'Koran torn up'

But in his testimony to Islamic human rights website Cageprisoners.com, Mr Begg, from Birmingham, who was among the final group of five UK nationals released from the military base earlier this year, said it was "widely known" that a US Marine had torn up a copy of the Koran and thrown it into a toilet bucket in Kandahar.

He adds: "In Bagram, that same year (2002), I saw incidents that provoked fury, including the placing of Qurans (Korans) in an area used as a latrine.

"As cells were entered and searched I witnessed an occasion when a Quran (Koran) was snatched from a captive's hands and thrown to the ground.

"When distributing the Qurans (Korans) to detainees, I remember clearly that one guard went around shoving them through the cages, singing out in a newspaper-boy style, 'Extra, Extra! Come get your Quran (Koran) - your holiest of Holy Books. Learn how to kill Americans!'."

Newsweek magazine has backpedalled on the story "and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the US soldiers caught in its midst".

But Mr Begg told the Press Association: "If they (Newsweek) are retracting it, it is really silly. So many people are saying exactly the same thing. What is odd to me is that the story came out now, even though it has been detailed well before."

A statement from fellow former detainee Mr Abbasi, from Croydon, tells of inmates having Korans taken from them and described an interpreter slapping the book, saying "Why do you want to pass this s*** around?"

He adds: "I swear by Allah! I witnessed this clearly, not 10 metres away from me, with my own eyes and ears."

And Mr al Harith, a father of three from Manchester, who has previously claimed religious men were humiliated by prostitutes and accused the military of psychological torture, stated "the US has desecrated the Koran on a number of occasions" and "numerous" hunger strikes in Camp Delta were sparked by a guard who threw the Koran into the toilet.

He adds: "When searching our cages the guards would sometimes throw the Quran (Koran) on to the floor.

"During interrogation, an interrogator jumped up and down on the Quran (Koran) and taunted a prisoner.

"In Afghanistan, in the American concentration camps, a Quran (Koran) was thrown in a waste bucket by a guard.

"They don't just desecrate the Quran (Koran) but act arrogant with it."

'Detainees could not have colluded'

The document, Report Into The Systematic And Institutionalised US Desecration Of The Quran (Koran) And Other Islamic Rituals, also contains claims that Muslim rituals were derided.

Cageprisoners.com spokesman Dr Adnan Siddiqui said: "It should be clear to any thinking person that all these detainees could not have colluded, especially since some were in solitary confinement for their duration in Guantanamo Bay; and the US is guilty of a systematic and horrific assault on Islam and the religious beliefs and practices of a fifth of humanity in their so-called 'war on terror'.

"The prolonged period of the abuse, from the beginning to the end of their detention, clearly shows that it is institutionalised and authorised by the chain of command headed by Donald Rumsfeld and George W Bush."

Islamic groups in at least five countries in Asia, the Middle East and Europe will hold rallies later this month to protest at the alleged desecration in Guantanamo Bay.

Mr Begg and Mr Abbasi, alongside Martin Mubanga from Wembley, north-west London, and Richard Belmar, from St John's Wood, north-west London, were released without charge in January this year, having been returned to the UK after up to three years in Guantanamo Bay.

Mr al Harith and Mr Dergoul, a former care worker from Bethnal Green, east London, were released without charge last year after landing back in Britain, together with Asif Iqbal, Shafiq Rasul and Ruhal Ahmed.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/worldnews.html?in_article_id=348902&in_page_id=1811#