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The U.S. Embassy in Kabul issued a statement condemning Dove World Outreach Center’s plans, saying Washington was “deeply concerned about deliberate attempts to offend members of religious or ethnic groups.”

Protesters who had gathered in front of Kabul’s Milad ul-Nabi mosque raised placards and flags emblazoned with slogans calling for the death of Mr. Obama, while police looked on. They burned American flags and a cardboard effigy of Dove World Outreach Center’s pastor, Terry Jones, before dispersing peacefully.

Muslims consider the Koran to be the word of God and demand it, along with any printed material containing its verses or the name of Allah or the Prophet Muhammad, be treated with the utmost respect. Any intentional damage or show of disrespect to the Koran is considered deeply offensive.

In 2005, 15 people died and scores were wounded in riots in Afghanistan sparked by a story in Newsweek magazine alleging that interrogators at the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, placed copies of the Koran in washrooms and had flushed one down the toilet to get inmates to talk. Newsweek later retracted the story.