World protest of Muslims

Thousands of Muslims, from Gaza to Pakistan to Indonesia, emerged from prayer services on Friday to join Afghans in rapidly spreading protests over the reported desecration of a &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Koran by American interrogators at &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Guantбnamo Bay, Cuba.

In Afghanistan, at least 8 people were killed and more than 40 injured in clashes, bringing the death toll over four days of anti-American rioting to at least 16, with more than 100 injured. For the first time a policeman was killed in the violence, tells the New York Times.

Three protesters were killed and 23 people wounded as the police grappled with a crowd of more than 1,500 in Baharak, in far northeastern Badakhstan, the police chief of the province, Gen. Shah Jehan Nuri, said in a telephone interview. Ten police officers and members of the border police, who are based in the town, were among the injured, he said.

According to ABC News, Washington sought to stem Muslim anger as allies demanded investigations and thousands took to the streets in outrage over the Newsweek magazine report that interrogators at the U.S. military prison in Cuba had put the Muslim holy book on a toilet and at least once flushed it down.

The unrest spread to &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Pakistan, which called for a U.S. probe. Hundreds of people held a peaceful protest in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation.

In Gaza, several thousand Palestinians marched through a refugee camp in a protest organized by the Islamic militant group Hamas. Several hundred Palestinians also marched in the West Bank city of Hebron.

"The Holy Koran was defiled by the dirtiest of hands, by American hands," a protester shouted at the Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza, where U.S. and Israeli flags were also burned.

The escalating violence prompted the Bush administration to express sympathy with the demonstrators and urge calm.

"We want Muslims around the world to know that we share and understand the concerns that they have. We are also saddened about the loss of life because of these demonstrations turning violent," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

The Department of Defense is investigating the allegation and "they take such allegations very seriously," he said, but did indicate when the investigation would be completed. "…We will not tolerate any disrespect for the holy Koran," he added.

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