ASADABAD, Afghanistan (AFP) — The US military said it would investigate claims that its soldiers had burnt a copy of the Koran in Afghanistan, as angry locals demanded action and threatened retaliation.
Allegations that troops tore up and burnt the Muslim holy book during a raid in the eastern province of Kunar on Saturday led several hundred villagers to demonstrate the same day, blocking a main road for hours.
Locals repeated the charges at a heated meeting Sunday in the provincial capital Asadabad of representatives of the US military, Afghan officials and more than a dozen men from the area near the raid site in Narang district.
"You have desecrated our religion," resident Azim Khan told the US delegation.
"If the perpetrators do not apologise to Afghans and to all the Muslims of the world, and if they are not brought to justice and punished for what they have done, we will stand against you, you will see an uprising," he said.
US Captain Jason Coughenour said the allegations would be treated seriously.
"We respect your religion," he said. "We will launch an investigation and find out who has burnt the Koran. If it has been done by an American, we will punish him."
The US-led coalition on Saturday confirmed the raid in which four men were arrested but denied that any religious articles were desecrated.
Afghanistan is a deeply devout country and allegations of abuse of Islam have in the past touched off protests that have turned deadly.
There are about 55,000 foreign soldiers here, about half of them from the United States, helping Afghan security forces fight back an insurgency by the extremist Taliban movement that was in government between 1996 and 2001.
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