KABUL - Senior Afghan clerics said on Friday a U.S. apology for the burning of copies of the Muslim holy book at a NATO base last month would never be accepted, and demanded a trial and punishment for those who committed the "evil act."
"Those who committed this crime must be publicly tried and punished," members of a senior council of clerics said after meeting President Hamid Karzai, according to a statement issued by his office.
"The council strongly condemns this crime and inhumane, savage act by American troops by desecrating holy books of the Quran."
Despite an apology from President Barack Obama, the desecration of the Quran at the U.S. Bagram airbase, which is being used by both U.S. and foreign forces under the NATO banner, ignited a wave of anti-Western fury across the country. Muslims consider the Koran the literal word of God and treat each book with deep reverence.
Two Americans have been killed following days of protesting over the recent burning of the Quran at a NATO military base. NBC's Atia Abawi reports.
At least 30 people were killed in the protests.
The Quran burnings hurt U.S. efforts to win more trust from Afghans, an essential part of efforts to weaken the Taliban and force the militant group to negotiate an end to the war now in its eleventh year.
Prof. Fawaz Gerges of the London School of Economics explains whether the Quran-burning incident and subsequent Taliban attacks on NATO could alter U.S. plans in Afghanistan.
A string of attacks on NATO troops by Afghan security forces followed the Quran burnings, including the high-profile killing of two U.S. officers in the heavily guarded Interior Ministry.
The killing of two U.S. officers, allegedly by a police intelligence officer, in the heart of the heavily guarded Interior Ministry raised particular concern and cast fresh doubt over the effectiveness of Afghan security forces.
If their capabilities do not improve before foreign combat troops head home at the end of 2014, the country could face prolonged instability.
An Afghan government commission investigating abuse accusations at the largest U.S. jail in Afghanistan, which is at the Bagram site, has said inmates had reported being tortured and being held without evidence.
Control over Afghans captured by U.S. forces is a major stumbling block in negotiations between Kabul and Washington on a strategic partnership agreement. NATO's night-time raids on Afghan homes, which Karzai objects to, are another point of contention.
Reuters and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.
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