Afghan clerics demand punishment for Koran burners

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 02, 2012 9:04 AM
Afghan clerics demand punishment for Koran burners

KABUL (Reuters) - Senior Afghan clerics said on Friday a U.S. apology for the burning of copies of the Muslim holy book at a NATO base last month would never be accepted, and demanded a trial and punishment for those who committed the "evil act."

"Those who committed this crime must be publicly tried and punished," members of a senior council of clerics said after meeting President Hamid Karzai, according to a statement issued by his office.

"The council strongly condemns this crime and inhumane, savage act by American troops by desecrating holy books of the Koran."

Despite an apology from President Barack Obama, the desecration of the Korans at Bagram airbase ignited a wave of anti-Western fury across the country. Muslims consider the Koran the literal word of God and treat each book with deep reverence.

At least 30 people were killed in the protests.

The Koran burnings hurt U.S. efforts to win more trust from Afghans, an essential part of efforts to weaken the Taliban and force the militant group to negotiate an end to the war now in its eleventh year.

String of attacks on NATO troops by Afghan security forces followed the Koran burnings, including the high-profile killing of two U.S. officers in the heavily guarded Interior Ministry.

(Reporting by Hamid Shalizi; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Robert Birsel)