Anti-U.S. sentiment exploited over Koran

Feb. 28, 2012 at 1:01 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Extremist elements in Afghanistan are trying to gain leverage by exploiting popular frustration over the mishandling of the Koran, a U.S. official said.

The bodies of two U.S. servicemen killed last week by an Afghan intelligence officer have been returned to the United States. The men were killed during violence that erupted after the mistaken mishandling of the Koran at a military base in the country.

Anti-American sentiment is high in Afghanistan following the incident. U.S. President Barack Obama issued a formal apology but violence attributed to the Taliban has escalated in the days following the mishandling.

Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, said U.S. personnel working in Afghanistan were subject to travel restrictions because of heightened security concerns.

She added that the "assassination" of the two U.S. servicemen in the Afghan Interior Minister was a "calculated move."

"The concern is that extremists may be trying to exploit popular feelings to get the upper hand and that is the situation that, in addition to the situation in general, that all of us have to calm," she said.

Military authorities stressed they were working side-by-side with Afghan counterparts despite the escalation in violence. There are no plans, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan said, to alter military objectives in the country.

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