(CNSNews.com) – In the wake of President Barack Obama sending a three-page letter to Afghan President Hamid Kharzai, apologizing for U.S. forces having mistakenly burned some Qur'ans at a U.S. air base in Afghanistan, the Taliban is calling on Muslims to kill Americans or beat them and take them as prisoners.
The call for violence against U.S. troops in Afghanistan came as Muslims in South Asia and elsewhere prepared for Friday prayers--a potentially volatile time.
Islamist groups in Pakistan, meanwhile, drummed up protests against the burning of the Qur’ans, with some leaders appealing for jihad against the United States.
Echoing incendiary calls by the Taliban for Muslims to react violently to the mishandling of the religious texts, militant leaders charged that the incident was a deliberate plot against Muslims.
Two U.S. troops and at least seven Afghans have been killed in three days of rioting in Afghanistan.
“We should not be satisfied with mere protests and empty slogans but the military bases of the invaders, their military convoys and their troops should become a target of our courageous attacks,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement directed to Taliban fighters and the “zealous and faithful people of Afghanistan.”
“Kill them, beat them, take them as prisoners and teach them such a lesson that they never summon the courage to abuse the Holy Qur’an again,” he said.
Mujahid said the Taliban called on the world’s Muslims to condemn the incident, "both practically and verbally and back the legitimate struggle of the Muslim Afghans” against the “American aggressors.”
At least one demonstration was planned in Kabul on Friday, and the U.S. Embassy warned American citizens there may be more, possibly violent protests after the end of Friday prayers.
While President Hamid Karzai and Afghan government officials called for calm and encouraged provincial and religious leaders to do likewise, there was no comparable appeal from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a bloc of the world’s Muslim nations.
OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu issued a statement condemning the Qur’an incident but saying nothing about the deadly reaction or the various groups’ calls for violence.
The OIC said Ihsanoglu described the incident at the Bagram military base as “a deplorable act of incitement and called on the concerned authorities to take swift and appropriate disciplinary action against those responsible.”
“The OIC secretary-general said that the act was contrary to the the common efforts of the OIC and that of the international community including the United States government, to combat intolerance, and incitement to hatred based on religion and belief,” the statement said.
It said Ihsanoglu welcomed the apologies from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) commander Gen. John Allen and their assurances that the incident would be investigated and not be allowed to happen again.
The independent Daily Outlook Afghanistan reports that the Afghanistan Ulema Council, a body of top religious scholars, declared in a statement that apologies were not sufficient, and that “those behind the tragic incident must be punished and sent to jail.”
One militant cleric had a more dire fate in mind for those responsible. “Several times the foreign troops have desecrated the sacred book and then got away with mere apologies,” Maulvi Nasrullah told the Pajhwok Afghan News service, demanding that the culprits be sentenced to death.
In the Pakistani city of Quetta, the pro-Taliban Islamist group Jamiat-ul Ulema-e-Islam organized a rally Thursday which police said drew some 500 people.
“The burning of Qur’ans is a conspiracy to hurt the feelings of Muslims,” radical cleric Fazal Muhammad told the protestors. He urged Muslims to wage jihad against the U.S. “so they don’t even dare invading any other Muslim country in future,” the Karachi-based daily Dawn reported.
Other groups taking part in the protest included the Islamist political party Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and Jamaat ud-Dawa (JuD), an ostensibly charitable group which the State Department calls a “front operation” for the terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Toiba.
In Lahore, members of the JI’s student wing – the largest student group in Pakistan – also protested, with the group’s leader declaring that JI would not permit the Pakistani government to reopen supply lines to the ISAF forces in Afghanistan.
Last spring, Islamist organizations and media in Pakistan played a key role in fueling anger both in that country and neighboring Afghanistan after the pastor of a small Florida church burned a copy of the Qur’an.
For almost two weeks after Terry Jones’ March 20 stunt the incident received little media coverage in the Islamic world – with the exception of Pakistan, where groups like JI and JuD issued fiery denunciations and organized protest rallies.
Protests then spread to Afghanistan, where – after Friday prayers on April 1 – Muslims roused by imams’ unfounded claims that hundreds of Qur’ans had been burned in the U.S. stormed a U.N. compound, in an attack that left seven foreign U.N. workers and four Afghan civilians dead. Another 12 people were killed during two further days of rioting.
In other reaction to this week’s incident at Bagram, the Lebanese Shi’ite militant group Hezbollah said “the action of the foreign troops is a new crime that reveals U.S.-Zionist desecration of Islamic sanctities and ridicules the feelings of more than one billion Muslims.”