US pastor 'will never burn Koran'

US pastor 'will never burn Koran'

A pastor today backed down on a threat to burn copies of the Koran, saying he had achieved his aim of exposing a “very dangerous and very radical” element of Islam.

Terry Jones caused international outrage after announcing the stunt in response to plans to build an Islamic centre near to the site of the 9/11 terrorist atrocities in New York.

As the world marked the ninth anniversary of the attacks, Mr Jones said he still hoped to hold a meeting with the imam leading the centre.

But the leader of the 50-member Dove World Outreach Centre in Gainesville, Florida, told NBC’s Today show that he had succeeded in his intention to “expose that there is an element of Islam that is very dangerous and very radical”.

He said: “We have definitely accomplished that mission.”

Fareed Ahmad, who joined an estimated 15,000 Muslims today for prayers at Baitul Futuh Mosque, in Morden, south-west London, said he now wanted to “move on” from the episode.

“This should’ve happened right at the start. It’s welcome news and the right outcome,” said Mr Ahmad, a spokesman for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

“It’s a shame it wasn’t resolved earlier as it would have saved a lot of heartache.

“It has hurt Muslims’ sentiment.”

US President Barack Obama said today's anniversary should be a day not only to mourn the 9/11 victims but to show that Americans ``are not at war against Islam''.

“We’re at war against terrorist organisations that have distorted Islam or falsely used the banner of Islam to engage in their destructive acts,” he said.

Nearly 3,000 people were killed when Muslim extremists hijacked four planes and flew two into the World Trade Centre and a third into the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

British victims of the atrocity were remembered in Grosvenor Square, London, today as floral tributes were laid on behalf of the UK and US governments.

A senior Civil Service official placed 67 roses – one for each of the British victims of the September 11 attacks.

The flowers carried a hand-written message from Prime Minister David Cameron, which read: “In memory of the victims of terrorism in the USA on 11 September 2001. They will never be forgotten.”

Memorial services were taking place at the crash sites, with a remembrance event at Ground Zero followed by rallies for and against the Islamic centre plans.

Military chiefs in Afghanistan warned the actions of Mr Jones had been “unhelpful” and had inflamed anti-West sentiment among some Muslims.

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