October 28th, 2013
03:56 PM ET

Terrorist attacks and deaths hit record high, report shows

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog co-editor

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Washington (CNN) – As terrorism increasingly becomes a tactic of warfare, the number of attacks and fatalities soared to a record high in 2012, according to a new report obtained exclusively by CNN.

More than 8,500 terrorist attacks killed nearly 15,500 people last year as violence tore through Africa, Asia and the Middle East, according to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism.

That’s a 69% rise in attacks and an 89% jump in fatalities from 2011, said START, one of the world’s leading terrorism-trackers.

Six of the seven most deadly groups are affiliated with al Qaeda, according to START, and most of the violence was committed in Muslim-majority countries.

The previous record for attacks was set in 2011 with more than 5,000 incidents; for fatalities the previous high was 2007 with more than 12,800 deaths.


- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Afghanistan • Africa • Crime • Fatwa • Foreign policy • Iran • Iraq • Islam • Islamic law • Middle East • Muslim • Nigeria • Pakistan • Terrorism

October 26th, 2012
06:56 AM ET

Suicide bomber targets worshipers outside Afghan mosque, kills 40

By Masoud Popalzai, CNN

(CNN) - A suicide bomber blew himself up outside a mosque following morning prayers in Afghanistan's northern Faryab province, killing at least 40 people, according to Lal Mohammad Ahmadzai, a spokesman for the northern Afghanistan police chief.

More than 50 people were wounded in the blast that occurred as worshipers finished prayers to mark the start of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, said Ministry of Interior spokesman Sediq Seddiqi.

- A. Hawkins

Filed under: Afghanistan • Terrorism

My Take: It takes a nation to make a massacre
Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, left, is accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians.
March 19th, 2012
10:31 AM ET

My Take: It takes a nation to make a massacre

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

We now know the name of the man accused of leaving his combat unit in Afghanistan's Kandahar Province on March 11, walking into two Afghan villages and murdering 16 innocent people, including 9 children.

The narratives we are supposed to follow here are clear, and each absolves the rest of us of any sin. Staff Sgt. Robert Bales was mentally unstable and went off the deep end. Or perhaps he was a cold-blooded killer all along. Either way, he deserves to be separated from the rest of us by life in prison, or worse.

But why is this 38-year-old husband and father of two sitting today in solitary confinement at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas?

I do not know. I suspect, however, that the answer is more complicated than the simple stories we tell ourselves in these circumstances.


- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Afghanistan • Crime • Death • Iraq • Iraq • Middle East • Military • Sin • Uncategorized

U.S. outreach to American Muslims may not curb Afghan violence
February 27th, 2012
12:19 PM ET

U.S. outreach to American Muslims may not curb Afghan violence

By Paul Courson, CNN

Washington (CNN)– After a weekend that saw continued deadly violence in Afghanistan triggered by what the U.S. says was the inadvertent burning of Qurans, an American Muslim group says outreach here is unlikely to help over there.

On Friday, a ranking Pentagon official visited a prominent mosque in the outside Washington and apologized for last week's incident, which involved copies of the Quran and other religious tracts that had been
kept at a U.S. detention facility in Bagram.

"On behalf of Secretary Panetta, and the Department of Defense, I offer my sincere regret for the incident at Bagram Air Base," said Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense Peter Lavoy.

But an Islamic activist group Monday suggested that the U.S. is preaching to the wrong choir if officials hope they can reach those in Afghanistan who have been perpetrating the violence.


- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Afghanistan • Belief • Church and state • Islam • Quran

February 24th, 2012
11:12 AM ET

Obama apologizes to Afghanistan for Quran burning

From Masoud Popalzai and Nick Paton Walsh, CNN

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) - Afghan rage over the burning of Qurans by NATO troops continued Thursday even after a President Barack Obama apologized for the "error."

Afghanistan erupted in violent demonstrations after the troops burned the Islamic religious material at the beginning of the week.

Two American troops were killed Thursday by a man wearing an Afghan National Army uniform, a U.S. official said, asking not to be named discussing casualties. The gunman is thought to have been acting in conjunction with a protest outside the base, the official said.

In a letter delivered to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Obama called the act "inadvertent," Karzai's office and National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said Thursday.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Afghanistan • Islam • Quran • TV-The Situation Room

February 21st, 2012
01:14 PM ET

Rioting over Quran burning is un-Islamic, scholar argues

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

(CNN) - Muslims believe the Quran is the word of God, so holy that people should wash their hands before even touching the sacred book, which is why Quran burning incites such fury.

But with angry demonstrations against Quran burning taking place in Afghanistan, one leading Islamic scholar urged Muslims not to react violently to desecration of the book.

"What is captured on the pages can be printed again. If they burn 1,000, we can print 10,000. What's the big deal?" Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra asked Tuesday after hundreds of demonstrators protested reports of the burning of Qurans and other religious material by NATO troops.


- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Afghanistan • Islam

Report of Quran burning sparks protests at Afghan base
February 21st, 2012
06:41 AM ET

Report of Quran burning sparks protests at Afghan base

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the Baghram Airfield in Afghanistan on Tuesday, spurred by reports that soldiers had burned a copy of the Quran at the base.

NATO officials acknowledged that Islamic religious materials, including copies of the Quran, had been improperly disposed at the base, but could not definitely say whether any was burned.

"We think very little was disposed (of)," said Col. Gary Kolb. "We don't think any was burned because we were able to recover most of the materials."

The commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan quickly apologized and said he had launched an investigation.


- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Afghanistan • Islam • Quran

December 7th, 2011
01:34 AM ET

Karzai cancels UK trip after attacks

By Masoud Popalzai and Nick Paton Walsh, CNN

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) – Afghan President Hamid Karzai has canceled a visit to the UK to return home following Tuesday's deadly blasts in the capital, Kabul, and in the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif.

A spokesman for the Afghan embassy in London said Karzai had been due in London late Tuesday from Germany but was flying back to Afghanistan after the twin suicide attacks killed 60 people and wounded scores of others in the two cities.

A suicide bomber detonated a device at a Shiite shrine in Kabul, as worshippers were marking the Shiite holy day of Ashura, Afghan Health Ministry spokesman Kargar Norughli said. Fifty-six people were killed and 193 were wounded, Norughli added.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Afghanistan

Attack on shrine signals new nexus of Afghan strife
December 7th, 2011
01:32 AM ET

Attack on shrine signals new nexus of Afghan strife

By Tim Lister, CNN

Editor's note: Tim Lister has covered international news for 25 years as a producer and reporter for the BBC and CNN. He has lived and worked in the Middle East, and has also worked in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In 2004, he produced the award-winning documentary "Between Hope and Fear: Journeys in the New Iraq" for CNN. He is now an independent writer and producer.

(CNN) – The deadly attack in Kabul on Shi'ite worshippers celebrating the feast of Ashura adds one more layer to the country's overlapping security crises. And they evoke violent sectarian rivalries in Iraq and Pakistan, where animosity between Sunni and Shia runs deep. Afghanistan has its own cultural rifts - between ethnic Pashtun and Tajik, for example - but it's rare to see such an explosion of religiously motivated violence.

Kate Clark, with the Afghan Analysts Network in Kabul, described the attack as "a real shock."

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Afghanistan

August 30th, 2011
04:23 PM ET

Preparing clergy for war: army chaplains train by the hundred for the combat zone

By Eric Marrapodi and Chris Lawrence, CNN

Fort Jackson, South Carolina (CNN) – The summer sun beats down on camouflaged Kevlar helmets.  Weighed down by heavy body armor, men and women of the cloth are crawling through sand, under barbed wire and learning how to run with soldiers.

Explosions in woods simulate the battlefield as an instructor barks commands.

"You are not following simple instructions!  Cover me while I move!  Got you covered!  Let's go!"

This is the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, where the Army trains clergy of all faiths how to survive in combat.


- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Afghanistan • Belief • Buddhism • Christianity • Content Partner • Hinduism • Iraq • Islam • Middle East • Military • TV-The Situation Room

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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.