Prominent Afghan official Maulavi Khaliqdad said the burning of Qurans at the Bagram air base last month was "intentional," reported the Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) today, hours after a deadly suicide bomb attack hit the base in an attack that killed at least two people.
Khaliqdad, part of a panel set up by Afghan President Hamid Karzai to investigate the offense, told DPA that the destruction of Islamic texts at the base was premeditated.
"If they burnt one or two copies, then we could have said it could have been a mistake," MSNBC quoted Khaliqdad as saying. "But they took hundreds of such books to burn. Everyone knew those were religious books."
His comments contravene the results of a joint US-Afghan investigation that on Friday cleared the US of purposeful malice, according to the Guardian.
Burned bits of the holy books were found at the base on February 20 in an incident that set off a storm of violent protests throught the highly religious country and prompted a personal apology from US President Barack Obama, who described it as an "inadvertent" but unfortunate event.
Obama's remarks have however not placated leading Afghan religious leaders.
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"Someone is responsible for this," Khaliqdad said today, arguing it was "impossible" for soldiers to collect that many books and not realize what they were doing. "A mistake is when someone does something without any knowledge or when someone is unaware," said Khaliqdad, also a member of religious Ulema Council of Islamic scholars and mullahs, according to DPA.
NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen countered from Brussels today, telling reports that preliminary results of NATO investigations affirm the event was "unintentional," according to DPA.
A group of religious leaders in Afghanistan have nonetheless called for public trials for those held responsible in a demand supported by Karzai, according to the Guardian.