Obama expresses ‘deep regret’ over Koran burning
KABUL — US President Barack Obama sent Afghan President Hamid Karzai a letter of apology over the burning of copies of the Koran overseen by a US officer at a US military base, Karzai’s office said Thursday.
Obama said the incident was unintentional and pledged a full investigation, the president’s office said, as fierce anti-US protests swept the nation in which at least 14 people have died, including two American soldiers.
“I wish to express my deep regret for the reported incident,” Obama wrote in the letter presented to Karzai by US ambassador Ryan Crocker. “I extend to you and the Afghan people my sincere apologies.”
“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-US protests in which at least 12 protesters were killed.
Two American soldiers also died when an Afghan army 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 (Afghan) 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 as 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 Korans.
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 Korans at the Bagram base.
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