President Hamid Karzai said Friday he was "very unhappy" to learn that U.S. soldiers had burned the bodies of two dead Taliban fighters, but he said mistakes happen in war and Afghans shouldn't let the incident mar their impression of the United States.
His apparent attempt to reduce Afghans' anger over the alleged desecration of the bodies came amid warnings by Islamic clerics of a possible violent anti-American backlash.
"Sometimes things happen in these sort of operations, during war. Soldiers make mistakes," he told reporters in Kabul. "We are very grateful for the international community's assistance ... Their soldiers have shed their blood in our country."
But he added, "We in Afghanistan in accordance with our religion ... are very unhappy and condemn the burning of the two Taliban dead bodies. I hope such incidents will not occur again."
Karzai on Thursday ordered an inquiry into television footage that purportedly shows U.S. soldiers burning the bodies of the two dead Taliban fighters to taunt other militants. The U.S. military also launched an investigation.
Cremating bodies is banned under Islam, and one Muslim leader in Afghanistan compared the video to photographs of U.S. troops abusing prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, the AP says.
"Abu Ghraib ruined the reputation of the Americans in Iraq and to me this is even worse," Faiz Mohammed told The Associated Press from northern Kunduz province. "This is against Islam. Afghans will be shocked by this news. It is so humiliating. There will be very, very dangerous consequences from this."
A cleric in Kabul, Said Mohammed Omar, said, "The burnings of these bodies is an offense against Muslims everywhere. Bodies are only burned in hell."
Footage of the alleged act has not been broadcast yet in Afghanistan and though the local media has reported on it, many people were still not aware of it and there have been no demonstrations like anti-American protests in May that turned violent and killed 15 people.
Those riots erupted after Newsweek magazine said U.S. soldiers at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility desecrated Islam's holy book, the Quran. Newsweek later retracted the story.
Worried about the potential for anti-American feelings over this incident, the U.S. State Department said it instructed U.S. embassies around the globe to tell local governments that the reported abuse did not reflect American values.