Koran Burning Protests Turn Deadly in Afghanistan

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Photo: Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images

Angry protests spread across Afghanistan for a third straight day on Thursday in response to Korans that were reportedly burned at an American base. "The error was inadvertent," President Obama said in an apology letter to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, hand delivered by the American ambassador in Kabul. "I assure you that we will take the appropriate steps to avoid any recurrence, to include holding accountable those responsible," the president wrote. "I extend to you and the Afghan people my sincere apologies." Already, two NATO soldiers and at least six Afghans have been killed in the demonstrations. 

On Wednesday night, Karzai requested that people not resort to violence, countering a Taliban call to Afghans to attack foreign bases. He said it appeared that "American soldiers had burned four copies of the Holy Koran," and condemned their actions. Soon after, an Afghan soldier fired on coalition troops in the eastern part of the country, killing two. Dozens of demonstrators have also been injured.

The Taliban statement also demanded violence against those "who still close their eyes to this unforgivable act of the infidels," while even Kabul's police chief expressed frustration. "I do not blame people for throwing rocks at us," he said, "because this is their right to protest their anger about dishonoring our Holy Koran, and the police are their sons and their servants."

One protester explained, "This is not just about dishonoring the Koran, it is about disrespecting our dead and killing our children." He added, "They burn our Koran, and then they apologize. You can’t just disrespect our holy book and kill our innocent children and make a small apology."