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    Ulema Council chief rejects American regrets

    KABUL (PAN): As protests against alleged burning of the Quran by US troops are spreading across the country, the Afghanistan Ulema Council on Wednesday said mere apologies were longer acceptable to the nation.

    At least eight people were killed and 21 others wounded as protests over the alleged desecration of the holy book at the Bagram Airbase continued for a second day, officials and witnesses said.

    Maulvi Qayamuddin Kashaf, denounced the incident at a meeting with the United Nations Secretary General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Jan Kubish, the council said in a statement.

    On Tuesday, the White House, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the State Department also apologised to the people and government of Afghanistan over the incident.

    But Kashaf said: “The issue of desecration cannot be resolved with apologies. Those behind the tragic incident must be punished and sent to jail,” Kashaf was quoted as saying in the statement.

    He added the Afghans had rendered countless sacrifices to protect their religion, with millions of people embracing martyrdom and suffering disabilities during jihad against the Soviet occupation army.

    Kashaf warned against keeping a mum over punishment to the soldiers responsible for the blasphemy, saying the officials concerned would be held accountable for the consequences.

    US Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan C. Crocker extended his sincere apologies to the people of Afghanistan and expressed his deep regrets over the issue. He said Gen. John Allen had immediately offered his apology and ordered an investigation.

    A day earlier,. Allen said: “We are thoroughly investigating the incident and we are taking steps to ensure this does not ever happen again. I assure you ... I promise you ... this was not intentional in any way.”

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