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Americans Apologize for Burning Korans in Afghanistan

An Afghan demonstrator holds a copy of a half-burnt Koran, allegedly set on fire by US soldiers, at the gate of Bagram airbase during a protest against Koran desecration at Bagram, about 60 kilometres (40 miles) north of Kabul, on February 21, 2012. Afghan protestors firing slingshots and petrol bombs besieged one of the largest US-run military bases in Afghanistan, furious over reports that NATO had set fire to copies of the Koran. Guards at Bagram airbase responded by firing rubber bullets from a watchtower, an AFP photographer said as the crowd shouted "Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar" (God is greater). AFP PHOTO / Massoud HOSSAINI (Photo credit should read MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images)

The Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan was the site of a massive protest today as more than 2,000 people gathered to express their anger at military forces who burned Korans in piles of garbage. "Die, die, foreigners!" demonstrators chanted, while General John Allen, the NATO commander in Afghanistan, apologized profusely in a statement.

Allen said some personnel at the American air base "improperly disposed of a large number of Islamic religious materials which included Korans," but insisted, "When we learned of these actions, we immediately intervened and stopped them. The materials recovered will be properly handled by appropriate religious authorities." He added, "We are thoroughly investigating the incident and are taking steps to ensure this does not ever happen again. I assure you, I promise you, this was not intentional in any way."

Protesters agreed to end their rally, but are demanding a meeting with President Hamid Karzai, and will send representatives to Kabul to meet with Afghan politicians. In Kandahar, the governor's office called the burning a "shameful move by some stupid individuals." One protester spoke to larger frustrations: "They should leave Afghanistan rather than disrespecting our religion, our faith," he said. "They have to leave and if next time they disrespect our religion, we will defend our holy Koran, religion and faith until the last drop of blood has left in our body."

Photo: Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images