Afghans angry at plan to burn Quran torch US flag; Iraq increases security at churches

By Amir Shah, AP
Thursday, September 9, 2010

Afghans protest Quran burning plan, torch US flag

KABUL, Afghanistan — Hundreds of angry Afghans burned a U.S. flag and chanted “Death to the Christians” to protest plans — canceled Thursday — by a small American church to torch copies of the Muslim holy book on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Religious and political leaders across the Muslim world, as well as several U.S. officials, had asked the church to call off the plan, warning it would lead to violence against Americans. Iraq, worried that it will unleash a backlash against all Christians, beefed up security near churches.

International police organization Interpol warned its 188 member countries that “there will be tragic consequences” and a “strong likelihood” of violence if the burning takes place.

The Rev. Terry Jones of the Dove Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, announced Thursday that he decided to cancel the Quran burning and fly with a Florida imam to New York this weekend to meet with Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, the imam behind the controversial Islamic community center and mosque planned near ground zero.

Local officials in Mahmud Raqi, capital of Afghanistan’s Kapisa province, estimated up to 4,000 people took part in Thursday’s demonstration. NATO spokesman James Judge said there were 500 to 700 protesters.

“The Afghan national police prevented the protest from overwhelming an Afghan military outpost,” and dispersed the demonstration, he told The Associated Press.

A cleric in Afghanistan’s Balkh province said Thursday that if the burning happened a protest would be held Monday in the provincial capital, Mazar-i-Sharif. NATO-led troops are stationed in the city.

In the central Pakistani city of Multan, about 200 people marched and burned a U.S. flag.

“If Quran is burned it would be beginning of destruction of America,” read one English-language banner held up by the protesters, who chanted “Down with America!”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has denounced the planned burning and Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, has said it could lead to attacks on international troops.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki also warned of repercussions, saying the burning would “face reactions by the world’s Muslims as well as followers of other religions,” according to Iran’s official news agency.

will not be displayed