The US commander of the Afghan war has warned that troops’ lives will be endangered if a Florida evangelical church goes ahead with a planned burning of the Quran on Saturday’s 9/11 anniversary.
General David Petraeus said the planned torching of Islam’s Holy book would be a propaganda coup for the Taliban in Afghanistan and stoke anti-US sentiment across the Muslim world.
The Dove World Outreach Center at Gainesville, Florida says it will burn copies of the Quran on this weekend’s ninth anniversary of the September 11 airborne attacks in protest.
In an interview with Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal, Petraeus said of the event: “It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort.
“It is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems. Not just here, but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community,” he said.
A subsequent demonstration by about 2,000 people in central Afghanistan turned violent, with a Lithuanian soldier and two civilians killed in an exchange of gunfire between protestors and police.
The Florida church’s pastor, Terry Jones, said Petraeus’s concerns were “legitimate”.
But in a statement to the Wall Street Journal, he added: “We must send a clear message to the radical element of Islam. We will no longer be controlled and dominated by their fears and threats.”