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Obama Apologizes to Afghanistan Over Quran Burnings

2 U.S. troops shot dead

Angry Afghans attacked U.S. bases after reports of Quran desecration at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. (Photo credit: Massoud Hossaini / AFP — Getty Images; view photo gallery)

The Associated Press, Reuters, and NBC News via
February 23, 2012

KABUL, Afghanistan — President Barack Obama has written a letter to his Afghan counterpart apologizing for the burning of copies of the Quran at a NATO military base in the country. Two U.S. soldiers were also shot dead Thursday at a protest about the desecration of the holy books.

A man wearing an Afghan government soldier’s uniform killed the American troops and wounded four others at the demonstration in Nangarhar province, officials told NBC News.

There have been violent protests daily since it emerged on Tuesday that Qurans used by detainees held at the Bagram military base had been burned. The incident has become a public relations disaster for foreign forces in Afghanistan.

A statement from President Hamid Karzai’s office said the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan had delivered the letter from Obama Thursday.

In the letter, which is quoted in the statement, the U.S. president expressed his “deep regret for the reported incident” and offered his “sincere apologies.”

According to the statement, Obama wrote: “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 Quran burnings at the vast Bagram base could make it even more difficult for U.S.-led NATO forces to win the hearts and minds of Afghans and bring the Taliban to the negotiating table ahead of the withdrawal of foreign combat troops by the end of 2014.

Muslims consider the Quran the literal word of God and treat each book with deep reverence. Desecration is considered one of the worst forms of blasphemy. …

Riots triggered by the inadvertent Quran burning at a U.S. military base prompted the U.S. to lock down its embassy. …

According to Haji Mohammad Hassan, the deputy police of Khogayani district in Nangarhar province, American soldiers had starting firing at protesters who were attacking their base.

He said that an Afghan soldier then turned his weapon on the U.S. troops, shooting six, killing two and injuring four.

Hassan said the Afghan soldier escaped by joining the crowd of protesters. However, a provincial official, who asked not to be named, said the shooter had been killed after the attack. …

Full story


PhotoBlog: ‘Death to America!’ Afghan anger over Quran burning intensifies

Image: Afghan protesters burn a U.S. flag during a protest in Jalalabad province
Parwiz / Reuters

Photo gallery: Protests erupt over Quran burning in Afghanistan


 2/24/12 Video update

Thousands hold anti-U.S. protests in Afghanistan (MSNBC “The Daily Rundown,” Feb. 24, 2012) — Gunfire broke out in Kabul, where thousands of demonstrators protested against the U.S. for burning Qurans at a NATO base. Across Afghanistan, 12 people were killed Friday during protests, despite Thursday’s written apology from Barack Obama. NBC’s Atia Abawi reports. (03:18)


 2/25/12 Video update

2 U.S. Army officers shot dead in Afghanistan (NBC Nightly News, Feb. 25, 2012) — High-ranking Americans are gunned down in the place they thought was the safest in Afghanistan – the heavily guarded Afghan Interior Ministry in the center of the capital Kabul — after days of rage over burnings of the Quran. NBC’s Atia Abawi reports. (03:14)


3/2/12 Update

Afghans Fatally Shoot 2 U.S. Troops at Joint Base


Two more U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan (MSNBC-TV, March 1, 2012) — An Afghan soldier and a literacy teacher shot and killed two American soldiers in Afghanistan Thursday. This is the latest in a series of deaths as anti-Americanism rises in the country following the accidental burning of Qurans by U.S. soldiers. NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski reports. (02:09)

The Associated Press and NBC News’ Courtney Kube via
March 1, 2012

KABUL, Afghanistan — Two American soldiers were killed Thursday in a shooting by an Afghan soldier and a literacy teacher at a joint base in southern Afghanistan, officials said, the latest in a series of deaths as anti-Americanism rises following the burning of Qurans by U.S. soldiers. …

Thursday’s killings raised to six the number of Americans killed in less than two weeks amid heightened tensions over the Feb. 20 burning of Qurans and other Islamic texts that had been dumped in a garbage pit at Bagram Air Field near Kabul. More than 30 Afghans also were killed in six days of violent riots that broke out after the incident. …

One of the gunmen was wearing civilian clothing and the other was believed to be a member of the Afghan army, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement. …

The Associated Press quoted a U.S. official as saying three attackers were believed to be involved, two of whom were subsequently killed. He said the third may be in custody. …

A district chief in southern Kandahar’s Zhari district said the shootings took place on a NATO base when an Afghan civilian who taught a literacy course for Afghan soldiers and lived on the base started shooting at NATO troops. Niaz Mohammad Sarhadi said the shootings occurred at 3 a.m. and that NATO troops returned fire and killed the man and an Afghan soldier.

Mohammad Mohssan, an Afghan Army spokesman in Kandahar city, confirmed the incident occurred at a base in Zhari and involved two Afghans, one of whom was a soldier, who opened fire on coalition troops from a sentry tower. He said both were killed.

The shootings on Thursday were the latest in a series of attacks by Afghan security forces — or militants disguised in their uniforms — against Americans and other members of the international alliance. Last month the Pentagon released data showing that 75 percent of the more than 45 insider attacks since 2007 occurred in the last two years.

More than 75 NATO ISAF troops have been killed by Afghan forces in the past 5 years. …

Hundreds of advisers were pulled out of ministries and other government locations after an Afghan gunman shot and killed two U.S. military advisers on Feb. 25 inside their office at the Interior Ministry. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the ministry shootings, saying they were conducted in retaliation for last week’s Quran burnings, but no one has been arrested in the case.

An Afghan soldier also killed two U.S. troops in eastern Afghanistan on Feb. 23 during a protest over the Quran burnings. …

Full story


3/3/12 Update

Relatives Mourn Soldiers Killed in Koran Backlash

Sgt. Joshua A. Born and Sgt. Timothy J. Conrad Jr.

By Randall Chase

February 26, 2012

DOVER, Del.  — A sister of one of two U.S. military police officers killed in the violent backlash in Afghanistan over the burning of Qurans at a U.S. base says relatives of both men are devastated by their deaths.

Amanda Meland, the oldest sister of Cpl. T.J. Conrad of Roanoke, Va., who was posthumously promoted to sergeant, said he had spoken recently about the violent protests. Conrad, the father of a 7-month-old baby, deployed to Afghanistan in January and was to have celebrated his 23rd birthday on March 6. …

The bodies of Conrad and Sgt. Joshua Born, 25, of Niceville, Fla., both assigned to the Army’s Fort Stewart in Georgia, were returned Saturday to the military mortuary at Dover Air Force Base.

On Thursday, an Afghan soldier turned his gun on foreign troops, killing the two American soldiers, during a riot outside a U.S. base in Nangarhar province, officials have said.

Rising anti-American sentiments in that country over the Quran burnings have resulted in two more American deaths since: two U.S. military advisers — a lieutenant colonel and a major whose names were not immediately released — were found dead in their office with shots to the back of their heads. …

Contacted by AP, Meland said Conrad was in good spirits Wednesday when she and other relatives last spoke with him via Skype. She added: “… He did say that things were starting to get crazy from the backlash.”

Conrad, the father of a 7-month-old baby, deployed to Afghanistan in January. He would have celebrated his 23rd birthday on March 6. Meland said Conrad’s widow, Holly, was not at the couple’s house when military officials initially came to notify her of his death.

“They had come earlier, but she was not there. She had actually just mailed out his birthday package,” Meland explained.

Conrad was born in Newport News, Va., and was still a toddler when his family moved to Roanoke, where he was a member of the wrestling team at Northside High School. After high school, he joined the Army Reserve, switching a short time later to active duty. …

Meland said the deaths of Conrad and Born, whose relatives also attended Saturday’s casualty return, have left both families devastated. …

Full story


3/4/12 Update

Bodies of Slain U.S. Officers Return Home

Lt. Col. John D. Loftis and Maj. Robert J. Marchanti II

By Matt Smith

February 28, 2012

Troops in white gloves and camouflage carried a pair of flag-draped caskets off an Air Force transport in Delaware Monday as the bodies of two senior U.S. military officers killed inside Afghanistan’s interior ministry arrived home.

Air Force Lt. Col. John Loftis and Army Maj. Robert Marchanti II were gunned down Friday when an Afghan intelligence officer turned his gun on them inside the ministry, an Afghan counter-terrorism official told CNN. Loftis was a career Air Force officer, while Marchanti was a veteran of Maryland’s National Guard. …

Marchanti taught physical education in Baltimore County schools for 17 years before resigning to become a full-time, active-duty guardsman. His last assignment was at Carney Elementary, in Baltimore’s northeastern suburbs, where kindergarten teacher Beth Avil described him as a “gentle giant.”

“He was this big, burly guy, and here he was making these connections with these little tiny kindergarteners,” she said. “You might think they’d be intimidated, but they had this instant bond.”

Marchanti “loved to work with struggling learners,” tutoring them on reading skills in the school’s computer lab, Avil said. …

When he left, Avil said, Marchanti told them not to worry — he was going to a desk job. He worked as a construction planning officer in Baltimore, overseeing renovations of National Guard facilities, said Lt. Col. Charles Kohler, a National Guard spokesman.

Marchanti was deployed to Afghanistan in September with a unit attached to the Army’s 29th Infantry Division, serving as a “mentor and adviser” to Afghan national police officers, Kohler said.

Both men were fathers — the 48-year-old Marchanti had four children and a grandchild, while Loftis had two daughters, the Air Force said.

Loftis, meanwhile, was part of an Air Force special operations unit and had already served one tour in Afghanistan. He was killed just days after his 44th birthday, his mother, Chris Janne, told CNN affilliate WPSD in Paducah, Kentucky. …

Loftis began his Air Force career as a missile officer. But he changed specialties in 2007, receiving training in Pashto — one of Afghanistan’s two major languages — and went to Afghanistan as a public affairs officer with a NATO provincial reconstruction team, the service said.

In 2009, then-Maj. Loftis was featured in a story by the Air Force News Service, which noted that he had been given the Pashto name “Esan” — meaning “The Quality of Being Generous.” He had been based at Hurlburt Field, near Fort Walton, Florida, before his last deployment.

“He was very much committed to what he was doing in Afghanistan,” his mother said. “He felt that the way to help the people there was to become their friends, and he trusted them.”

Loftis and Marchanti were killed in a spasm of violence that followed the burning of copies of the Quran, the Islamic holy book, in what U.S. President Barack Obama has called an accident. The Afghan official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information, said investigators believe their deaths were “100% linked to the Quran burning” because their killer had spent two months in a Pakistani religious school. …

Full story


3/27/12 Update

Three NATO Troops Killed by Alleged Afghan Security Forces

An Afghan policeman checks a man entering the police station near the gate of a joint civilian-military base where two British soldiers part of the NATO forces were killed south of Kabul in Afghanistan. (Photo credit: Abdul Khaleq / AP)

The Associated Press, Reuters, and NBC News’ Cheryll Simpson via
March 26, 2012

Three NATO troops were killed in Afghanistan on Monday in two separate attacks apparently carried out by members of local security forces.

A gunman wearing an Afghan army uniform killed two NATO troops in southern Afghanistan, while another was shot in eastern Afghanistan by an alleged member of the Afghan Local Police.

The deaths appeared to be the latest in a string of so-called “green on blue” attacks in which Afghan security forces have turned on their international colleagues or mentors.

The incident in which two died took place in Lashkar Gah in the southern Helmand province, an Afghan security source told Reuters. …

“The individual who opened fire was killed when coalition forces returned fire,” NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement about that incident. …

The Lashkar Gah base is dominated by British forces and a NATO official told The Associated Press the two victims were British soldiers. …

In a later statement about the shooting in eastern Afghanistan, ISAF said: “According to operational reports, the ISAF service member was shot by an alleged member of the Afghan Local Police as the security force approached an ALP checkpoint.” …

Insider attacks have mounted in recent months as tension between Afghanistan and its foreign backers rises over a series of incidents including the burning of Qurans at a NATO base and the killing of 17 villagers in southern Kandahar for which a U.S. soldier has been charged.

Before Monday’s attack, 13 members of the NATO-led force had been killed this year in what appeared to be attacks by members of Afghan forces, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces, General John Allen, told a U.S. Senate committee last week.

About 70 members of the NATO force have been killed in 42 insider attacks from May 2007 to January this year. …

Full story


8/28/2012 Update

Military Punishes Soldiers for Quran Burning, Marines for Urinating on Taliban Corpses

By Jim Miklaszewski and Courtney Kube

August 27, 2012

WASHINGTON – The U.S. military on Monday dealt out punishment to six Army soldiers for burning Qurans at Bagram Air Base that ignited deadly protest in Afghanistan, and to three Marines for their roles in urinating on Taliban corpses.

The Army handed out administrative discipline to four officers and two non-commissioned officers for the Quran burning but found no ill intent on the part of the soldiers so none will face criminal charges.

The administrative punishment, however, will likely result in the end of their military careers. …

The burning of the Muslim holy books in February sparked weeks of protests that led to 30 Afghan deaths. U.S. officials said at the time the books were mistakenly sent along with garbage for disposal after detainees had written messages in them.

The investigation found up to 100 Qurans and other religious materials were burned in the incinerator at Bagram Air Field on Feb. 20.

An Army report released on the incident Monday shed new light on what happened that day.

Members of the Military Police and Theater Intelligence Team had discovered that Bagram detainees were using library books to pass notes and messages. One interpreter determined that 60 percent to 75 percent of the books contained extremist content. So, soldiers were ordered to remove the books as contraband. In all, about 2,000 books, including Qurans and other religious material, were set to be destroyed.

An Afghan National Army soldier and and interpreter warned the troops not to dispose of the religious texts, but soldiers took some 100 books to the burn pit anyway.

A local man who worked at the burn pit discovered the Qurans and other texts were burning. He grabbed a front-end loader and doused the entire burn pit to extinguish the flames.

An angry crowd of Afghans gathered around the U.S. service members who drove the truck to the burn pit and were burning the material. The U.S. soldiers all fled.

“I absolutely reject any suggestion that those involved acted with any malicious intent to disrespect the Quran or defame the faith of Islam,” an investigator wrote. “Ultimately, this was a tragic incident (that) resulted from a lack of cross-talk between leaders and commanders, a lack of senior involvement in giving clear guidance in a complex operation” and “distrust among our service members and our partners.” …

According to The Wall Street Journal, officials in Afghanistan were bracing for public demonstrations over what might be viewed as lenient punishment of the troops.

Full story


Related reports on this site

Image: Afghans burn effigy of Obama
Afghan protestors beat a burning effigy of U.S. President Barack Obama during a demonstration in Jalalabad on Sunday, April 3, 2011, following the burning of a copy of the Quaran by Florida pastor Terry Jones. (Photo credit: Rahmat Gul / AP)

Setback for U.S. in Afghan War (Jan. 13, 2012)

Koran Burned, Many Dead (April 3, 2011)

Afghan Guard Turns Gun on Americans (July 9, 2011)

Rogue Afghan Shoots U.S. Trainers (April 27, 2011)

Soldiers Pose with Afghan Corpse (March 21, 2011)

Afghan Policeman Kills U.S. Troops (Dec. 1, 2010)

‘Making Enemies’ in Afghanistan (April 12, 2010)

Afghan Soldier Kills U.S. Troop (Dec. 29, 2009)

9 Responses to “Two American Soldiers Killed in Afghanistan Over Koran Burning”
  1. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Military Deaths in Afghanistan Update Says:

    […] U.S. Soldiers Killed in Afghanistan Over Koran Burning (Feb. 24, 2012) […]

  2. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » ‘Limited Chance of Success’ in Afghanistan Says:

    […] U.S. troops in Afghanistan are being guarded more closely and are taking other steps to protect themselves from attacks by Afghan troops, according to the top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen. Allen ordered the measures in recent weeks after a spate of 16 attacks in which U.S. and other coalition forces were killed by Afghan soldiers. Some of the killings were believed triggered by the accidental burning of Qurans and other religious materials in February 2012. […]

  3. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Military Deaths in Afghanistan Update Says:

    […] U.S. Soldiers Killed in Afghanistan Over Koran Burning (Feb. 24, 2012) […]

  4. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » Taliban Launch Spring Offensive With Attacks Across Kabul Says:

    […] Heavy street fighting between militants and security forces in the Afghan capital of Kabul raged for 18 hours in what the Taliban, who claimed responsibility for the attacks, called the start of its Spring Offensive and retaliation for the burning of Qurans at a NATO base in February 2012, the murders of 17 Afghans allegedly by Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales in March 2012, and videos that surfaced in January 2012 apparently showing U.S. Marines urinating on dead Taliban fighters. […]

  5. Immelman for Congress » Blog Archive » U.S. Soldiers Posed With Body Parts of Afghan Suicide Bombers Says:

    […] In January 2012 video surfaced of U.S. Marines urinating on Afghan corpses; in February 2012, the burning of Qurans in a fire pit at the main American base in Afghanistan sparked violent protests and revenge killings of six Americans; and in March 2012, 17 civilians, mainly women and children, were killed in a nighttime rampage, allegedly by Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. […]

  6. Immelman vs. Bachmann » Blog Archive » Afghan Policeman Kills US Troops Says:

    […] Two American Soldiers Killed in Afghanistan Over Koran Burning (Feb. 24, 2012) […]

  7. Immelman vs. Bachmann » Blog Archive » Afghan Guard Turns Gun on Americans Says:

    […] Two U.S. Soldiers Killed in Afghanistan Over Koran Burning (Feb. 24, 2012) […]

  8. Immelman vs. Bachmann » Blog Archive » American Killed by Rogue Afghan Worker Inside Kabul CIA Office Says:

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    […] Two U.S. Soldiers Killed in Afghanistan Over Koran Burning (Feb. 24, 2012) […]

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