Entries in Burning (8)


No Criminal Charges for US Soldiers in Koran Burning

February 2012: Pakistani Islamists set fire to the US flag during a protest over the burning of the Koran at a US-run military base in Afghanistan. S.S. MIRZA/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Six Army soldiers have received administrative non-judicial punishments for their role in the inadvertent burning of Korans in Afghanistan, meaning they will not face criminal charges for an incident that set off deadly protests in Afghanistan in January.

Similar punishments were handed down earlier Monday to three Marines involved in an inflammatory video posted on the Internet in January that showed them urinating on the corpses of several Taliban fighters. Additional punishments are expected to be announced in the future against other Marines involved in that incident.

At the time, top Pentagon officials expressed concern that the incidents, separated by just weeks, could set off a backlash against U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Violent street protests followed the Koran burning in February and two U.S. Army soldiers were shot at their desks in the Afghan Interior Ministry in an attack by an Afghan soldier, which officials said was motivated by the burning.

A defense official told ABC News the six soldiers being disciplined for the burning include four officers and two enlisted soldiers -- a warrant officer is among the four officers. A Navy sailor was also investigated for his alleged role, but the admiral who reviewed his case determined he was not guilty and that no further disciplinary action was warranted.

The Army did not specify exactly how the soldiers had been punished, but generally non-judicial administrative punishments can include, among other things, a reprimand, reductions in rank, forfeiting pay, extra duties or being restricted to a military base. The punishments remain on a service member's permanent record and can prevent further promotions.

U.S. Central Command posted a redacted copy of the full investigation into the incident on its website.

The Korans and other religious materials had been taken from the Parwan Detention Facility and were slated for incineration in a burn pit at Bagram Air Field. Officials at the detention facility suspected that detainees were using the religious texts to pass along messages to each other.

The report indicates that possibly as many as 100 Korans were consumed in the fire. Nearly 500 Korans and 1,123 other religious books were recovered and inventoried during the investigation.

Shortly after the incident, Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, quickly released a written apology and a video statement. President Obama apologized to Afghan President Hamid Karzai for the incident.

In an interview this past March with ABC News' Martha Raddatz, Allen reiterated that although the U.S. was investigating the incident, he did not believe the burning was intentional.

"I don't think for a second that anyone intended to defame the religious publications or the Koran or anyone sought to desecrate the faith," he said. "I don't believe that for a second."

He added, "You fix things that are broken and you hold people accountable....That's why you do investigations and we're headed in that direction."

The Army announced the administrative punishments in a statement, saying, "We take these incidents seriously."

It said the Army had taken "immediate corrective action and implemented many of the investigation's recommendations along with re-emphasizing proper handling of religious materials to all soldiers during pre-deployment training in order to minimize the potential for reoccurrence."

In the immediate aftermath of the incident Allen also ordered cultural and religious sensitivity training for troops from the 50 NATO countries serving in Afghanistan before and after they deploy there.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Afghanistan Koran Burning: Investigators Recommend Administrative Punishments

SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Military investigators, called in after the burning of Korans at a U.S. base in Afghanistan earlier this year, have recommended that as many as seven U.S. military service members face administrative punishments for their role in the incident.  They are not recommending criminal charges, according to several Defense officials.

A Defense official says as many as six Army soldiers and one sailor face administrative punishments that could range from letters of reprimand to reductions in pay.

Several Defense officials say the investigation’s results have been forwarded to the Army and Navy secretaries.  It will be up to them to determine if they will agree with the investigation’s recommendations or decide if a tougher or lighter punishment is in order.   A Defense official says the investigation’s recommendations for disciplinary action are “pending review” and no decisions have been made.

In February, the burning of Korans in a garbage pit set off rioting in Afghanistan and was likely the reason for the subsequent killings of two Army officers.  At the time Gen. John Allen, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, apologized for the incident. Officials labeled it inadvertent.

In the wake of the incident, NATO instituted new training so troops in Afghanistan could learn about the proper handling of religious materials.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Al Qaeda Leader Urges Followers to Avenge US Quran Burning

AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Al Qaeda is attempting to stir up anti-U.S. sentiment in the Muslim world by once again bringing up last February's burning of Qurans at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

During a new audio posted on radical Islamic websites Wednesday, al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahari recalled the incident that led to riots in Afghanistan, which resulted in the deaths of several American service personnel.

Since destroying the Islamic holy book is the ultimate sacrilege, al-Zawahari called on all Muslims to fight "those aggressors who occupied your countries, stole your wealth and violated your sanctities."

Even though the U.S. issued apologies immediately after the incident came to light, the al Qaeda chief said that Americans and their allies only pretended to be sorry for the Quran burning, calling it a "silly farce."

The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors militant messages, verified the authenticity of the audio posting.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Koran Burning Issue Continues to Smolder in Afghanistan

Mario Tama/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- The Koran burning episode in Florida continues to anger many Afghans.

The latest demonstration took place Thursday in the capital, Kabul. Unlike some of the others over the past week, it was peaceful, but as one activist warns, the issue is not resolved and things could again turn violent.

Some of the demonstrators says pastor Terry Jones should be put on trial.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Did Karzai's Condemnation of Koran Burning Spur Afghan Violence?

SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- Did Afghan President Hamid Karzai have an indirect hand in causing the deadly riots over the burning of a Koran by a Florida pastor?

There's speculation by Western officials that there would have been no protests leading to violence had Karzai not publicly condemned the March 20 Koran burning, four days after it happened.

The event by Pastor Terry Jones, who runs a Gainesville church with about a dozen congregants, received little notice by the U.S. media.  However, that didn't stop Karzai from publicizing it in Afghanistan, which inflamed a population already upset by the long foreign occupation of their country.

At least 20 people were killed and dozens injured in three days of violence that also cost the lives of seven United Nations workers in northern Afghanistan on Friday.

A spokesman for Karzai said, "This is a very religious Islamic country, and the president is the leader of this Muslim country.  The president saw it as his moral and religious duty on behalf of the Afghan people to condemn this."

The White House, which has strained relations with Karzai, hasn't criticized the Afghan leader for his actions, focusing its condemnation instead to Jones and those who desecrate the Muslim holy book.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Afghan Protesters Rally for Fourth Day Over Quran Burning

U.S. State Department(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- In the only eastern Afghan city earmarked for transition to local security forces in July, about 500 villagers filled the streets of Mihtarlam Monday, shouting death to America and death to the pastors who burned a Quran more than two weeks ago, according to the local police chief.

In their fourth day of demonstrations, the protesters threw stones at police and had sticks in their hands, but in a good sign, police dispersed them by firing into the air -- rather than into the crowd, as they did in Mazar-i-Sharif on Friday and Kandahar on Saturday.

The protesters were stopped well before they were able to reach the center of the city, where the local United Nations office and the Laghman province governor’s house is located.

No injuries were reported.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Protests in Kandahar Leave At Least Nine Dead

ABC News(KANDAHAR, Afghanistan) -- Violent protests in Afghanistan flared for a second day Saturday, enflamed by outrage over the burning of a Koran by Florida pastor Terry Jones.

Nine protesters were killed Saturday in Kandahar, where hundreds marched holding copies of the Koran when security forces shot into the air to disperse the crowd.

Zalmai Ayubi, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said it is unclear how the protesters were killed.

Anger over Terry Jones' burning of the Koran began on Friday in the town of Mazar-i-Sharif, when 11 people were killed -- including seven United Nations workers -- at a United Nations compound.

Jones oversaw the burning of a Koran last month and told ABC News that he did not feel responsible for the protests.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Afghanistan: UN Workers Killed In Response to Fla. Quran Burning

Mario Tama/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- Several United Nations staffers were killed Friday after protests broke out over a recent Quran burning by two Florida pastors.

Protesters in northern Afghanistan stormed a U.N. office following Friday prayers, killing a number of workers. This comes after preachers made mention of the Quran burning during their sermons.

Demonstrators began shooting at U.N. guards before making their way inside the compound, which they later burned down.

Four Nepalese guards and three international U.N. staff members -- one Norwegian, a Romanian and a Swede -- were killed in the attack. Afghan police said some were beheaded.

Less than 30 people were on hand last month when the two pastors -- including Terry Jones, who garnered worldwide attention last year when he threatened to burn Qurans on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks -- burned a Quran at Jones' Gainesville Church.

President Obama condemned the attack "in the strongest possible terms" Friday, and offered his condolences to the injured, as well as to the family members of those who were killed.

"The brave men and women of the United Nations, including the Afghan staff, undertake their work in support of the Afghan people," the president said in a statement. "Their work is essential to building a stronger Afghanistan for the benefit of all its citizens. We stress the importance of calm and urge all parties to reject violence and resolve differences through dialogue."

Last week, Pakistan's president denounced the actions of the Florida pastors in front of parliament.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio