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Afghan clerics demand reparation over Quran burning

The Afghan Ullema Council, an influential group of clerics, rejects Obama's apology over Quran burnings.

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Afghan protesters shout anti-US slogans prompted by the burning of Qurans at Bagram air base during a demonstration in Kunduz province on February 25. (Gulrahim/AFP/Getty Images)

A council of prominent Afghan clerics issued a statement today denouncing the burning of Qurans at Bagram air base last week, calling it an "savage act" that must be punished, Reuters reported

The destruction of the Qurans, which US officials say were disposed of by mistake, ignited a wave of protests throughout the country in which at least 30 people died.

The mullahs today met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and called on those responsible to be "publicly tried and punished" according to a statement released by Karzai's office, said MSNBC.

The statement from Afghan Ullema Council also demanded that the US end night raids, which are deeply unpopular with the Afghan public, and transfer authority over jails to Afghan authorities, according to CBS

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The New York Times said an initial investigation found five service members and one linguist were responsible for the burning.

According to an unnamed source, the group includes military "leaders."

"All six will be referred to the proper U.S. authorities for further action," the source said.

The Times suggested Afghanistan's reaction is favorable because the investigation's focus on more senior members, not just the soldiers who carried out the burning.

Respectful treatment of the Quran is a fundamental precept in Islam because the text is considered the literal word of God.

When the burned remains of holy books were discovered at the base on Feb. 20, Afghans responded with massive anti-American demonstrations that prompted a personal apology from US President Barack Obama. 

The clerics were dismissive of Obama's response, stating, "the apology for this evil act can never be accepted," said Reuters

There have been a number of attacks on NATO troops since the Quran burning, with two US soldiers killed in an attack on Thursday, said the Associated Press.  

Karzai has asked to take over Parwan, which houses 3,000 inmates, The Times reported.

But US military leaders bristle at the idea of relinquishing control of the facility, which is near Bagram Air Base. 

Gavin Sundwall, a spokesman for the American Embassy in Kabul, said the Afghans aren't ready and the Americans must follow their international obligations.

“The United States has repeatedly made clear that it is committed to working with the Afghan government to complete a transition of detention operations in Afghanistan in a manner that is safe and orderly and in accordance with our international legal obligations," he wrote in an email.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/afghanistan/120302/afghan-clerics-demand-reparation-over-quran-bu