Afghan students protest reported desecration of Quran at U.S. jail in Guantanamo

Afghan students chanted "Death to America" and burned an effigy of U.S. President George W. Bush on Tuesday, after a report that copies of the Quran were desecrated at the American jail in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, officials and witnesses said.

Hundreds of students marched from a university campus into the eastern city of Jalalabad and blocked the main road toward the capital, Kabul, intelligence chief Sardar Shah said. There were no reports of violence.

Television footage showed students chanting "Death to America" and "Death to Bush" and calling for an apology for the alleged abuse of Islam's holy book. An object which witnesses said was an effigy of Bush could be seen burning during the protest.

Ezatullah Zawab, editor of Jalalabad's Mina newspaper, said the students demanded the release of all prisoners from Guantanamo, and that "American troops don't stay in Afghanistan forever" _ tricky issues likely to be discussed when Afghan President Hamid Karzai meets Bush in Washington later this month.

In a recent edition, Newsweek magazine reported that in order to rattle suspects, U.S. interrogators placed Qurans on toilets and in at least one case "flushed a holy book down the toilet."

The government of neighboring Pakistan _ like Afghanistan, a conservative Muslim nation and close ally in Washington's war on terrorism _ on Saturday said it was "deeply dismayed" over the report, which also alleged that inmates at the Guantanamo prison were abused, and called for an inquiry.

The United States is holding about 520 people at Guantanamo Bay, many of them al-Qaida and Taliban suspects captured in Pakistan and Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in America.

Associated Press

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