Newsweek retracts Quran story

May 16, 2005

Newsweek retracts Quran story
U.S. military says it must reach out to Afghans to ease tension

(CNN) — Newsweek magazine issued a retraction Monday of a May 9 report on the alleged desecration of the Quran at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The White House earlier in the day expressed puzzlement over why Newsweek did not fully retract the story in its current issue, released Sunday.
Newsweek published that item in its May 9 issue. In the May 23 issue, it reported that its senior government source had backed away from his initial story.
Editor Mark Whitaker wrote in that issue that “we regret” that any part of the story was wrong. (Full story)
White House press secretary Scott McClellan said it was “puzzling” Newsweek had not retracted the story and said the damage done was “serious.”
“The bottom line is that Newsweek itself admits the story they reported is based on facts that are wrong,” McClellan said, repeating the word “puzzling” several times.
Violent protests broke out in Afghanistan last week after the magazine cited sources saying investigators looking into abuses at the military prison found interrogators “had placed Qurans on toilets, and in at least one case flushed a holy book down the toilet.”
At least 15 people were killed and dozens injured when thousands of demonstrators marched in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other parts of the Muslim world, officials and eyewitnesses said.
U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher also chided the magazine before Monday’s retraction, saying “one would expect more than the kind of correction we’ve seen so far.”
Afghan government spokesman Jawed Ludin said his government expresses “in the strongest terms our disapproval of Newsweek’s approach to reporting which allowed them to run this story without proper examination beforehand.”
“Desecrating the Quran is a death-penalty offense” in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan, said Peter Bergen, a CNN terrorism analyst.
“There is clearly a lot of anti-American sentiment in Pakistan, less so in Afghanistan, but I think that this will feed into it,” Bergen said.
Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita blamed Newsweek’s report for the protests.
“People are dying. They are burning American flags. Our forces are in danger,” he told CNN.
The U.S. military said Monday it must reach out to angry Afghans to ease tensions.
“We want to redouble our efforts to communicate with the Afghan people,” said Army Col. Gary Cheek in Kabul. “We want to ensure there is trust and confidence in the U.S.”
The Pentagon said last week it was unable to corroborate any case in which interrogators at the U.S. Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, defiled the Muslim holy book, as Newsweek reported.
“Top administration officials have promised to continue looking into the charges, and so will we,” Whitaker wrote in the May 23 issue. “But we regret that we got any part of our story wrong, and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the U.S. soldiers caught in its midst.” Read More…


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