Saturday, January 26, 2008

Afghans protest Koran desecration and civilian deaths

From the London Times:

... In Kandahar there were reports that a crowd of several hundred Afghans were chanting anti-British slogans today in protest at an alleged incident in which British troops hunting insurgents are said to have desecrated the Koran while searching villages in the Girishk district of Helmand.

"The villagers told them that there were no Taleban hiding in the villages and swore by copies of the Koran they had in their hands," claimed Ghulam Mohammed, in a phone interview with a news agency. He claimed to be among the protesters.

"The British soldiers threw away the Koran and began searching the houses."

Lieutenant Colonel Simon Millar, a British forces spokesman, denied that either the alleged incident or the protest had taken place.

"That is a lie. There was no protest and no burning of the Koran," said Lieut Col Millar. (link)
Millar uses pretty strong words indeed. Yet on the same day the Daily Mail quotes the same officer admitting there was a protest:
Afghan protest over 'desecration' of Koran as British troops 'knock book out of their hands'

(Jan 21) Up to 600 Afghans are thought to have protested against what they called the desecration of the Koran by British forces when villagers claim soldiers knocked copies to the floor, the district governor said.

Numerous people describing themselves as demonstrators and residents also telephoned an agency reporter in the southern city of Kandahar to say some 600 people took part in the protest in Girishk district of neighbouring Helmand province.

Abdul Manaf, Girishk's district governor, confirmed at least 150 people had demonstrated in the town, but that there had been no desecration of the holy book.

He suggested that Taliban fighters had spread false rumours to provoke a protest.

One protester who introduced himself as Ghulam Mohammad said British soldiers knocked copies of the Muslim holy book out of the hands of villagers.

"The villagers told them that there were no Taliban hiding in the villages and swore by copies of the Koran they had in their hands," he said by telephone.

"The British soldiers threw away the Koran and began searching the houses."

Chanting slogans against the Afghan government and foreign troops, the protesters will continue unless the culprits are punished, another man said.
British forces spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Simon Millar said a small protest had taken place, but there had been no desecration of the Koran. ... (link)
Note that the protest occurred in Kandahar City, while the alleged desecration of the Koran occurred in Gereshk district of neighboring Kandahar.

Meanwhile, an American bombardment in Ghazni province reportedly killed nine Afghan police and two civilians:
(Jan 24) Reuters - Nine police and two civilians were killed in an air strike by U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan, a provincial doctor said on Thursday, but the coalition said Taliban fighters had been killed.

The raid, which sparked protests, happened in a village outside Ghazni town to the southwest of Kabul on Wednesday night, Dr. Ismail Ibrahimzai, the head of the local public health department said.

"Nine police, including an officer, two civilians, one of them a woman, were killed in the raid," he told Reuters.

Five police were wounded, he said, adding they were in a vehicle patrolling the area when it was hit in the air strike.

The U.S.-led coalition confirmed the attack but said several Taliban insurgents were killed in the raid ...

Some 200 villagers marched toward Ghazni town to protest against the latest strike, witnesses said. They chanted slogans against Karzai's government and U.S. troops who form the bulk of the coalition force in Afghanistan. ... (link)
The protests continue, according to Pajhwok Afghan News.

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