Afghan clerics demand US apologize over alleged Quran abuse at Guantanamo Bay

Afghanistan's Islamic clergy demanded the United States apologize for alleged desecration of the Islamic holy book by U.S. troops at a military prison in Guantanamo Bay and demanded that those responsible be handed over to a Muslim country to face trial.

The clergy, the Ulamas Council, made the demand in a resolution at the end of a meeting of clerics from across Afghanistan.

"Abuse of the Quran in Guantanamo Bay is a crime. It hurts the hearts of Muslims. The Ulamas Council of Afghanistan wants the United States to apologize to Muslim nations all over the world," cleric Malwari Saaduddin said, reading out the resolution.

"Whoever is responsible for these crimes should be handed over to an Islamic country to face trial," he added.

Anti-U.S. sentiment spiked here last month and 15 people were killed in riots after a U.S. magazine reported that interrogators at the U.S. prison placed copies of the Quran in washrooms and flushed one book in the toilet to get inmates to talk. Newsweek magazine later withdrew its story and apologized.

The U.S. Defense Department earlier this month detailed five incidents of U.S. guards desecrating the Quran, but did not find any case of it being flushed down a toilet.

There are about 540 detainees at Guantanamo Bay, most of them captured on the battlefields of Afghanistan after the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. Some detainees have been there more than three years without being charged.

The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, earlier this month accused the media of bias over its reporting about Guantanamo Bay, and said it shouldn't be focusing "a couple of incidents where an overzealous guard or interrogator abused the Quran."

The Ulama Council is highly influential in Afghanistan, with some 6,000 clerics as members nationwide.

The organization also condemned a spate of attacks across the country in recent weeks, including a suicide bombing Monday that wounded four U.S. troops and another on June 1 inside a mosque that killed 20 people. It said committing suicide, in any form, was against Islam.

AMIR SHAH, Associated Press Writer

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