Protesters hold up Koran 390.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Adrees Latif)
Matihullah, 24, had always dreamed of becoming a lawyer. Then news spread that Western soldiers had burned many copies of the Muslim holy book at a NATO base in Afghanistan.
He gave up his studies and embarked on a new mission in life -- to become a
"Since the desecration and burnings of holy books of the
Koran, I have been burning with the desire of revenge. It is running in my
blood," said Matihullah, wearing the traditional white skull cap worn by many
"I have two other brothers to take care of our family and I feel
very proud to get my revenge." The desecration of the Korans, which the United States
described as unintentional, triggered widespread protests in which 30 people
were killed. Afghan security forces turned their weapons on American
Two senior US officers were shot dead at their desks in the
heart of the Interior Ministry by what Afghan security officials said was a
police intelligence officer, stunning NATO and the Kabul government.
incident also raised the possibility that Afghanistan could see more suicide
bombings -- one of the Taliban's most effective weapons -- by those who have
concluded that is the only way justice can be served.
"I couldn't do any
harm to the Americans by protesting and throwing stones," said Matihullah. "I
want to put on the suicide vest and blow them apart." Suicide bombings have
become more widespread across the country in recent months, with assailants
taking to innovative tactics such as concealing bombs in turbans and using
US President Barack Obama apologized for the burnings of the
Koran at Bagram air base. But the anger has not subsided.
have said that the Korans were confiscated from prisoners on the base and
mistakenly discarded in an incinerator. Afghan laborers found charred
Western insensitivity to Afghanistan's culture and religion may
undermine US-led efforts to stabilize one of the world's most turbulent
countries before foreign combat troops withdraw at the end of 2014.
Afghan army chief of staff, General Sher Mohammad Karimi, said in an interview
with Reuters that the Taliban had taken advantage of the Koran burning saga and
whipped up anti-Western emotions on its radio programs and
"After the crime committed by foreign invaders, burning holy
Korans, the number volunteers who want to fight against the enemy have
remarkably increased," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters,
speaking of the group's efforts to boost infiltration of Afghan security
"We are now busy placing them inside and outside the enemy
lines." President Hamid Karzai's government is hoping to persuade the Taliban to
negotiate an end to the war, now in its eleventh year.
Karzai and NATO
have launched an ambitious reintegration program to enable Taliban fighters to
renounce violence and join mainstream society.
Abdullah was one of the
few Taliban members who agreed, laying down his weapon to give the nascent peace
process a chance.
But the Koran-burning episode is likely to set him on a
violent path again.
"The Americans disrespected our religion, our holy
Koran. This evil act is unforgivable and Jihad is a must for every Muslim right
now," he said.
"Anybody who ignores Jihad is not a Muslim. I will be a
proud to be martyred in defense of our holy book."