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Afghan Riots Not Tied to Report on Quran Handling, General Says

12 May 2005

Army investigating allegations of mishandling at Guantanamo Bay facility

By Jacquelyn S. Porth
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington – The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff says a report from Afghanistan suggests that rioting in Jalalabad on May 11 was not necessarily connected to press reports that the Quran might have been desecrated in the presence of Muslim prisoners held in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Air Force General Richard Myers told reporters at the Pentagon May 12 that he has been told that the Jalalabad, Afghanistan, rioting was related more to the ongoing political reconciliation process in Afghanistan than anything else.

According to initial reports, the situation in Jalalabad began on May 10 with peaceful student protests reacting to a report in Newsweek magazine that U.S. military interrogators questioning Muslim detainees at the Guantanamo detention center “had placed Qurans on toilets, and in at least one case flushed a holy book.”  By the following day the protests in the city had turned violent with reports of several individuals killed, dozens wounded, and widespread looting of government, diplomatic and nongovernmental assets.

However, Myers said an after-action report provided by U.S. Army Lieutenant General Karl Eikenberry, commander of the Combined Forces in Afghanistan, indicated that the political violence was not, in fact, connected to the magazine report.

Meanwhile, Myers said the U.S. military has assigned Army General Bantz Craddock to investigate allegations about the handling of the Quran at Guantanamo.  Craddock brings the full weight of his responsibility as commander of the U.S. Southern Command to this effort.

Myers said the International Committee of the Red Cross has approved the edition of the Quran that has been distributed to Muslim detainees in Guantanamo.  Craddock has been investigating the claim that proper respect was not given to the Quran.  There are now some 550 enemy combatants at the military installation, which is designed to isolate individuals whom the military has identified as likely to have valuable intelligence about international terrorism.

Craddock and his team have examined the prisoner interrogation logs and Myers said “they cannot confirm yet” that there ever was a case of a U.S. interrogator flushing a Quran down the toilet.  He did say there is another unconfirmed log reference to a guard report that a detainee tore pages from the Quran and flushed them in an attempt to flood the holding area as a form of protest.

Myers answered questions about the alleged Quran incident on the same day that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice addressed the issue during an appearance before the House International Relations Committee.

She said disrespect for the Quran will never be tolerated by the United States and such disrespect “is abhorrent to us all.”  Pakistan has voiced its concerns about the alleged incident, and Rice said the United States understands and shares the concerns of its Muslim friends.  She went on to voice this request:  “I am asking that all our friends around the world reject incitement to violence by those who would mischaracterize our intentions.” (See related article.)

INSURGENCY SEEKS TO DISCREDIT NEW IRAQI CABINET, MYERS SAYS

At the Pentagon, Myers was also questioned closely about the increase in violence in Iraq in recent weeks.  He acknowledged that there has been “a spike in violence in early May,” but he said this is to be expected given the “very violent insurgency” that is under way in that country.

The insurgency’s use of a variety of roadside and car bombs has been difficult to thwart, the general said.  He also noted the difficulty of sealing Iraq’s borders against infiltrators.  On this “we need cooperation from Iraq’s neighbors” -- an issue that is being pursued vigorously, Myers said.

Most insurgencies have a lifespan of three to nine years, Myers said, and addressing them militarily requires patience.  In this case, the insurgents are out to discredit the newly formed Iraqi Cabinet, he said.

Myers made his remarks during an appearance with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and other senior military and civilian officials to talk about the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure recommendations, which will be formally unveiled May 13.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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