Riots over USA Quran 'desecration' (fwd)
In the Name of Almighty Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful
Riots over USA Quran 'desecration'
Wednesday May 11,2005
At least four people have died and many were hurt after police fired shots to
disperse anti-USA protests in the Afghan city of Jalalabad, officials say.
Hundreds rioted over reports that interrogators at America's Guantanamo Bay
prison had flushed at least one copy of the Koran down a toilet.
The city is now said to be calm after widespread damage to property. All but
essential UN staff are being withdrawn.
USA 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 USA 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
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 USA military spokesman said USA units were not deployed.
The Afghan interior ministry says four people were killed, and more than 70
injured in a second day of unrest.
"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
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-USA protests in the south-eastern city of
Khost, and in Laghman province, where a demonstration was dispersed peacefully
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 recent report in the American magazine, Newsweek, that
interrogators at Guantanamo Bay had desecrated the Koran in order to put
pressure on Muslim prisoners.
Investigators probing reported abuses at Guantanamo Bay found that
interrogators "had placed Korans on toilets, and in at least one case flushed a
holy book down the toilet," Newsweek said.
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 USA in its war against
Insulting the Koran or Islam's Prophet Mohammed is regarded as blasphemy and
punishable by death in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The USA 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 USA and subsequent USA-led invasion of