Thousands in Afghan north protest Koran burning plan

Badakhshan. − Thousands of Afghans protested against the US in the northeast today, the largest demonstration since a small US church said it planned to burn copies of the Koran, an Afghan official said.

After special Eid prayers to mark the end of Ramadan the crowd, estimated by a governor’s spokesperson at 10 000, poured into the streets from mosques in Badakhshan province chanting anti-US slogans.

There were no signs of disturbance, the spokesperson said.

The pastor of the small church in Florida, Terry Jones, said he had put the plan to burn Korans on hold after it it had drawn global condemnation.

Before that Afghan president Hamid Karzai had expressed hope that Jones would not proceed with his plan.

“The Koran is in the hearts and minds of all Muslims but the affront against the holy book is a humiliation to the people,” Karzai told reporters at his palace after prayers.

“We are hopeful that he gives up this affront and should not even think about it.”

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates called Jones to urge him to abandon the protest, intended to coincide with the anniversary of the September 11 2001 attacks by al Qaeda militants on US targets.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, home of the world’s largest Muslim population, called on the US to ensure that no burnings took place.

“I continue to urge the government and the people of the United States to ensure the prevention of such an incomprehensible, irrational and immoral act,” Yudhoyono said in a speech.

Both Muslim and Christian groups in Pakistan, another large, mainly Muslim country, also denounced the planned action.

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