Wednesday, June 29 2016

NATO apologises after disposal and possible burning of Qur'ans in Afghanistan

NATO forces have apologised after it emerged that US forces in Afghanistan disposed and possibly burned copies of the Qur’an. The incident has sparked protests in Afghanistan outside the Bagram airbase where the incident happened.

From The Guardian:

“Nato forces have rushed to apologise for discarding and possibly burning copies of the Qur'an, as thousands of furious Afghans gathered to protest outside Bagram military airbase.

“Any destruction of, or damage to, Islam's holy book is a highly sensitive issue in Afghanistan that has sparked sometimes deadly riots in the past. As details of the apparent burning emerged, the top US and Nato general in Afghanistan apologised and promised an inquiry – seemingly to try to contain the spreading outrage.

“Copies of the Qur'an taken from prisoners at the airbase had been handed over for incineration late on Monday, and were spotted by Afghan workers, according to Afghan and western officials.

“It is routine practice to burn waste documents on military bases in Afghanistan, and Bekzad said the Qur'ans were discarded with many other papers.

“A spokesman for coalition forces, Lieutenant Colonel Jimmie Cummings, said the books were sent for incineration by mistake, but declined to comment further pending the investigation. "The decision to burn had nothing to do with the material being religious in nature or related to Islam … it was an error."

“He said coalition forces were not yet sure how much religious material had been sent for incineration and whether any Qur'ans had been burned before the Afghan workers intervened. Haji Ahmad Zaki Zahed, head of the Parwan provincial council, said 17 copies were rescued before the flames took hold. "I talked with five representatives of the workers, who showed me the pieces of the holy book, which I saw for myself were partly burned," he said.”

The Independent refers to a written statement from The International Security Assistance Force's top commander, General John Allen, "I offer my sincere apologies for any offence this may have caused, to the President of Afghanistan, the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and, most importantly, to the noble people of Afghanistan. When we learned of these actions, we immediately intervened and stopped them. This was not intentional in any way."

"I would like to thank the Afghan people who helped us identify the error, and who worked with us to immediately take corrective action."

The Independent states that General Allen has ordered an inquiry into the incident.

The Guardian continues, “In a further sign of Nato concern over the incident, Allen said all 130,000 foreign troops serving in Afghanistan would be trained within the next two weeks on how to identify, store and handle religious material.

“When the US cleric Terry Jones burned a copy of the Qur'an last year it triggered deadly protests across Afghanistan.”

This would be the latest is a series of incidents which have damaged the credibility of foreign forces in Afghanistan. Most recently, in January 2012, video footage emerged of four US marines urinating on three afghan corpses.

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