Afghans give U.S. 3 days to explain report on Quran
Magazine apologizes for allegations of abuse

Associated Press
Originally published May 16, 2005

KABUL, Afghanistan - Muslims in Afghanistan have given Washington three days to respond to a Newsweek article alleging that Islam's holy book was desecrated at a U.S. prison in Cuba, and the magazine has apologized for the report, which prompted deadly riots across Afghanistan last week.

Reaction in the Islamic world has been strong, with daily protests since the article came out May 9. At least 15 people died in Afghanistan after protests broke out Tuesday in the wake of the report that interrogators at Guantanamo Bay placed Qurans in washrooms to unsettle suspects and in one case "flushed a holy book down the toilet."

Many of the 520 inmates at Guantanamo are Muslims arrested during the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, insults to the Quran and Islam's prophet, Muhammad, are regarded as blasphemy and punishable by death.

"The American soldiers are known for disrespect to other religions. They do not take care of the sanctity of other religions," said Qazi Hussain Ahmed, the Pakistani chief of a coalition of radical Islamic groups.

His comments came a day after Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, and prime minister, Shaukat Aziz, demanded an investigation and punishment of those behind any such desecration.

In Afghanistan, Islamic scholars and tribal elders called for the punishment of anyone found to have abused the Quran, said Maulawi Abdul Wali Arshad of the religious affairs department in Badakhshan province.

Arshad and the provincial police chief said the scholars met in Faizabad, 310 miles northeast of the capital, Kabul, and demanded a "reaction" from U.S. authorities within three days.

Newsweek apologized in an editor's note in today's edition and said it was re-examining the allegations. "We regret that we got any part of our story wrong, and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the U.S. soldiers caught in its midst," Newsweek Editor Mark Whitaker wrote.

Washington bureau chief Daniel Klaidman said the magazine believes it erred in reporting the allegation that a guard tried to flush the Quran and that military investigators had confirmed the accusation.

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