AP reported that on Wednesday that protests had "spread to four Afghan provinces over a report that interrogators desecrated Islam's holy book at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba."[1]  --  Four died and more than 70 persons were injured as "mobs attacked government offices, the Pakistani Consulate and the offices of two United Nations agencies in Jalalabad," wrote Musadeq Sadeq.  --  Protesters were responding to a report in the May 9 edition of Newsweek International that interrogators at Guantanamo put Qur'ans on toilets to rattle suspects, and in at least one case "flushed a holy book down the toilet."  --  The report is reproduced below.[2] ...


By Musadeq Sadeq

Associated Press
May 12, 2005


JALALABAD, Afghanistan -- Shouting "Death to America!" more than 1,000 demonstrators rioted and threw stones at a U.S. military convoy Wednesday, as protests spread to four Afghan provinces over a report that interrogators desecrated Islam's holy book at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The biggest display of anti-American anger since the ouster of the Taliban left four dead and more than 70 injured.

Mobs attacked government offices, the Pakistani Consulate and the offices of two United Nations agencies in Jalalabad, a city 130 kilometers east of the capital Kabul. More than 50 foreign aid workers were reportedly evacuated.

Associated Press Television News footage showed Afghan security forces firing dangerously low over the heads of fleeing demonstrators. A health official said most of the injured were student protesters, and many of them suffered gunshot wounds.

University and high school students held similar protests in three other provinces -- Laghman, Khost and Wardak -- but there were no reports of violence.

The source of anger was a brief report in the May 9 edition of Newsweek that interrogators at Guantanamo placed Qur'ans on toilets to rattle suspects, and in at least one case "flushed a holy book down the toilet."

Pentagon spokesman Lt.-Cmdr. Flex Plexico said the U.S. military was investigating. "This allegation is contrary to our respect for cultural customs and fundamental belief in the freedom of religion," Plexico said.

The protests may spread into neighbouring Pakistan, where a coalition of hardline Islamic parties said it would hold countrywide demonstrations Friday.

Many of the 520 inmates in Guantanamo are Pakistanis and Afghans captured after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Despite both governments' support of the U.S.-led war on terrorism, suspicion lingers in the conservative Muslim countries about the American military.

President Hamid Karzai, who travels to Washington this month for talks with President George W. Bush, played down the violence.

"It is not the anti-American sentiment, it is a protest over news of the desecration of the Holy Qur'an," Karzai told reporters after talks with NATO officials in Brussels, Belgium.

"Afghanistan is now a democratic country, people can come out and protest and demonstrate and express themselves," Karzai said. "It also shows that Afghanistan's institutions, the police, the army, are not yet ready to handle protests and demonstrations."

Last weekend, Pakistan's government said it was "deeply dismayed" about the report and registered its disapproval to Washington.

The report of the alleged Qur'an desecration has had little impact in the Arab world, however. The news stations Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya reported the protests in Afghanistan and said the U.S. was investigating, but no mention was made in Islamic Internet forums where militants often comment on news reports.

The unrest in Jalalabad began Tuesday, when protesters burned an effigy of Bush. It flared again Wednesday, when more than 1,000 university and high school students marched through the city and stoned a convoy of U.S. military vehicles.

The American troops fired into the air to force the crowd back and quickly left the scene, provincial intelligence chief Sardar Shah said.

U.S. military spokeswoman Lieut. Cindy Moore said American forces were ordered to their camps but had no information on whether any of them were caught up in the unrest.

In Washington, the State Department said Guantanamo prison rules require that Islamic detainees be treated with dignity.

Spokesman Richard Boucher said copies of the Qur'an are available to Muslim detainees along with the opportunity to worship.

"The call to prayer is played over camp loudspeakers at the appropriate times every day," Boucher said. "And the detainees have stencilled arrows pointing in the direction of Mecca so people are afforded the opportunity to pray as they wish."


International Edition


By Michael Isikoff and John Barry

March 9, 2005


Investigators probing abuses at Guantanamo Bay have confirmed some infractions alleged in internal FBI e-mails that surfaced late last year. Among the previously unreported cases, sources tell NEWSWEEK: interrogators, in an attempt to rattle suspects, placed Qur'ans on toilets and, in at least one case, flushed a holy book down the toilet. An Army spokesman confirms that 10 interrogators have been disciplined for mistreating prisoners at Gitmo. These findings could put former Gitmo commander Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller in the hot seat. Two months ago, a more senior general, Air Force Lt. Gen. Randall Schmidt, was placed in charge of the probe in part so that Miller could be questioned. The FBI e-mails indicate that FBI agents quarreled repeatedly with military commanders, including Miller and his predecessor, retired Gen. Michael Dunleavy, over the military's more aggressive techniques. "Both agreed the Bureau has their way of doing business and DOD has their marching orders from the SecDef," one e-mail stated, referring to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Sources familiar with the probe say investigators didn't find that Miller authorized abusive treatment. But given the complaints, sources say, investigators say he should have known what was happening -- and acted to try to prevent it. An Army spokesman declined to comment.