Obama - 'deep regret' over Qur'an burning

2012-02-23 22:26

Kabul - US President Barack Obama sent Afghan President Hamid Karzai a letter of apology on Thursday over the burning of copies of the Qur'an overseen by a US officer at a US military base, the White House said.

Obama said the incident was unintentional, and Karzai's office said the US president pledged a full investigation, as fierce anti-American protests swept the nation leaving at least 14 people dead including two US soldiers.

In Obama's letter, delivered by US Ambassador Ryan Crocker Thursday in Kabul, "the president also expressed our regret and apologies over the incident in which religious materials were unintentionally mishandled at Bagram Airbase," National Security Council spokesperson Tommy Vietor said in a White House statement.

Kabul's office said Obama wrote in his letter that "I wish to express my deep regret for the reported incident."

"I extend to you and the Afghan people my sincere apologies," the letter said.

"The error was inadvertent; I assure you that we will take the appropriate steps to avoid any recurrence, to include holding accountable those responsible," the letter said.

Karzai told members of parliament that a US officer was responsible for the burning that was done "out of ignorance", his office said.

The incident at the US military base at Bagram, north of Kabul, sparked three days of fierce anti-American protests in which at least 12 protesters were killed.

Afghan kills 2 soldiers

Two US soldiers also died when an Afghan National Army (ANA) colleague turned his weapon on them as demonstrators approached a US base in eastern Nangarhar province Thursday, the military and officials said.

"As the protesters approached the American base here an ANA soldier in the base opened fire on American soldiers, killing two soldiers," said the district chief of Khogyani in eastern Nangarhar province, Mohammad Hassan.

The shooter then escaped among the crowd while two protesters were killed and six wounded when the foreign soldiers returned fire, Hassan said.

Nato's US-led International Security Assistance force had announced the deaths of two soldiers at the hands of a man in Afghan army uniform, without identifying their nationalities.

The attack came just hours after Taliban insurgents urged Afghans to kill foreign troops to avenge the burning of the Qur'ans.

Afghanistan is a deeply religious country where slights against Islam have frequently provoked violent protests, and many Afghans are incensed at the discovery of charred Qur'ans at the Bagram base.

Read more on:    barack obama  |  hamid karzai  |  afghanistan  |  religion

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