Apology for Quran burning not enough, Muslim scholars say

Afghan demonstrators shout anti-US slogans during a protest against the burning of Qurans on February 24, 2012.

Story highlights

  • Quran burning is "unforgivable," a Muslim scholars group says
  • "The criminals" should be punished "as soon as possible," the Ulema Council says
  • It demands foreign forces turn over control of prisons to Afghanistan

The burning of the Muslim holy book by U.S. forces at an Afghan prison is unforgivable, a powerful council of Muslim scholars said Friday. It demanded that foreign forces turn over control of prisoners to Afghanistan's government.

In a statement released through President Hamid Karzai's office, the Ulema Council said the incident occurred because of "illegal management" of the prison.

"The representatives of the Ulema Council also said that the unforgivable and inhuman action of American forces in Bagram is something that could not be forgiven and an apology is not enough. The criminals of this action should be openly prosecuted and punished as soon as possible," according to the statement.

The Qurans that were burned were among religious materials seized from a detainee facility at Bagram Airfield last week. U.S. President Barack Obama apologized to Karzai last week, calling the burning an inadvertent error.

The materials were removed because they contained "extremist inscriptions" and may have been used a way for extremists to communicate, a military official said.

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Furor over the burnings fueled a string of protests and attacks that has left at least 39 people dead, including four American soldiers, and hundreds more wounded.

A man wearing an Afghan National Army uniform killed two U.S. soldiers last week at a base in eastern Afghanistan. Last weekend, two senior U.S. officers were gunned down inside the heavily secure Afghan Interior Ministry when a junior intelligence officer turned his gun on them.

A suicide bombing Monday at a military airfield in eastern Afghanistan killed nine people and wounded 12, Afghan police said.

In northern Kunduz province, protesters attacked a police chief's office and a U.S. military base, authorities said. Some threw hand grenades at the base, wounding seven U.S. personnel.

Demonstrations outside the United Nations office in Kunduz on Saturday left four civilians dead and prompted the U.N. mission there to say Monday that it was temporarily relocating its international staff.

The Taliban also claimed it had poisoned food supplies at Forward Operating Base Torkham, near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, in retaliation for the burnings.

The attacks have put pressure on already strained U.S.-Afghan relations at a time when the United States is working to reduce troop levels and transition security as part of its plan to withdraw by 2014.

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