Newsweek backtracks on Koran story as violence grows

By Alyson Fixter

Newsweek magazine has retracted a controversial story about American
army interrogators that led to a week of protests, leaving at least 15
people dead and hundreds injured.

The American magazine published a story in its 9 May issue alleging
that interrogators in Guantanamo Bay had flushed a copy of the Koran
down a toilet to shake up prisoners.

The story sparked protests
across the Islamic world, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Indonesia
and Gaza. Muslims burnt the American flag and demanded punishment of
the interrogators.

The magazine published a semiretraction in its
16 May edition, but following continued anger from the Muslim world,
fully retracted the piecein a brief statement on Monday night.

Editor
Mark Whitaker said: “Based on what we know now, we are retracting our
original story that an internal military investigation had uncovered
Koran abuse at Guantanamo Bay.”

Reporter Evan Thomas wrote that a
“reliable, knowedgeable” source, a senior US government official, had
told the magazine that a pending report on prisoner abuse at Guantanamo
would include “new details that were not in the emails, including
mention of flushing the Koran down a toilet”.

A senior defence
official who was asked if there were any innaccuracies in the story did
not pinpoint the Koran allegation as a problem, he added.

“The
officer had not meant to mislead”, he said, “but lacked detailed
knowledge of the… report.”Pentagon spokesman Larry DeRita is reported
to have said: “People are dead because of what this son of a bitch
said,”

when he was asked about the mistake.

Prior to the retraction, Afghan clerics had threatened to call a “holy war”

against America if the interrogators were not handed over to them for punishment.

As
Press Gazette went to press, there were still plans for street protests
later this month, as Muslim leaders claimed the retraction had come
only through US government pressure.

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