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Afghan Security Forces Stop Rioting in East

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 15, 2005 – Coalition forces in eastern Afghanistan reported that as many as 1,000 Afghans demonstrated May 13 in Ghazni, and up to 300 in Gardez, to protest a magazine report about alleged desecration of the Koran at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by U.S. forces.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke about the alleged defacement during testimony before the Senate May 12. "Disrespect for the Holy Koran is not now, nor has it ever been, nor will it ever be, tolerated by the United States," she said. "We honor the sacred books of all the world's great religions. Disrespect for the Holy Koran is abhorrent to us all."

There were a few reports of violence associated with the protests. A Ghazni police chief was shot in the chest during the demonstration, but it is unknown if the shooting was connected to the demonstration. The police chief was evacuated to Bagram Air Base for treatment, where doctors expect his full recovery.

In Gardez, a protestor was shot in the leg and was evacuated to a local hospital for treatment. No report was available on his condition. Afghan National Police and security forces took the lead in controlling both demonstrations, leading to few casualties and minimal damage to public facilities, officials said.

Coalition forces helped by evacuating wounded Afghan citizens and moved to protect key humanitarian-assistance facilities and personnel at the request of the local leaders. "We are doing everything we can to avoid enflaming the situation, and at the same time are assisting the government of Afghanistan whenever possible," said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. James G. Champion, Combined Joint Task Force 76 deputy commanding general. "We, along with the government of Afghanistan and religious leaders, ask that the people of Afghanistan reject the calls to violence by those individuals who would misrepresent our intentions here."

Although an element of U.S. servicemembers was assembled to assist the Afghan National Police and Afghan National Army in Gardez, ANP and ANA reported the situation under control a short time later.

Afghan newspapers in Kabul quoted religious leaders and prominent government officials calling for an end to the bloodshed. Preachers and imams of congregational mosques in Kabul condemned the violence and said Afghanistan's enemies were behind it.

(News releases from Combined Forces Command Afghanistan were used in this report.)

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