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More than 2,000 angry Afghans protested outside an American air base on Tuesday after they learned that copies of the Quran (Koran), the Muslim holy book, were burned in a pile of garbage at a sprawling U.S. military base north of Kabul. "Die, die, foreigners!" the demonstrators shouted. Some fired rifles into the air. Others threw rocks at the gate of the base.
The burning of the Quran and other religious books was unintentional, said U.S. Gen. John Allen, the top commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan. The incident stoked anti-foreign sentiment that already is on the rise after a decade of war in Afghanistan and fueled the arguments of Afghans who claim foreign troops are not respectful of their culture or Islamic religion.
An Afghan demonstrator holds a copy of a half-burnt Koran, allegedly set on fire by U.S. soldiers, at the gate of Bagram airbase during a protest against Koran desecration at Bagram, about 60 kilometres (40 miles) north of Kabul. Afghan protestors firing slingshots and petrol bombs besieged one of the largest U.S.-run military bases in Afghanistan, furious over reports that NATO had set fire to copies of the Koran.
Some Qurans and other Islamic religious materials gathered for disposal from a detention facility at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan were improperly burned, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force said Tuesday. "This was not a decision that was made because they were religious materials," Gen. John Allen said. "It was not a decision that was made with respect to the faith of Islam. It was a mistake. It was an error. The moment we found out about it, we immediately stopped and we intervened."
A military official says Muslim holy books that were burned in a pile of garbage at a U.S. military base in Afghanistan had been removed from a library at a nearby detention center because they contained extremist messages or inscriptions.
(CNN) -- Military personnel threw away, and ultimately burned, confiscated Bibles that were printed in the two most common Afghan languages amid concern they would be used to try to convert Afghans, a Defense Department spokesman said Tuesday.
Afghan workers enter a walkway on March 3, 2009, at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. The unsolicited Bibles sent by a church in the United States were confiscated about a year ago at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan because military rules forbid troops of any religion from proselytizing while deployed there, Lt. Col. Mark Wright said. Such religious outreach can endanger American troops and civilians in the devoutly Muslim nation, Wright said. "The decision was made that it was a 'force protection' measure to throw them away, because, if they did get out, it could be perceived by Afghans that the U.S. government or the U.S. military was trying to convert Muslims," Wright told CNN on Tuesday. Troops at posts in war zones are required to burn their trash, Wright said.