A crowd of protesters fired petrol bombs at the base in response to the incident, shouting “Death to Americans” and “Death to infidels”. (Pictured).

Guards at the Bagram airbase, north of Kabul, retaliated by firing rubber bullets into the crowd, an AFP photographer has claimed.

Hundreds more people took to the streets of Kabul to protest, while US commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, ordered an investigation into the report that troops “improperly disposed of a large number of Islamic religious materials which included Korans”.

He said: “I offer my sincere apologies for any offence this may have caused, to the president of Afghanistan, the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and most importantly, to the noble people of Afghanistan.”

A senior government official said that reports of the burning came from Afghans working at the base.

Ahmad Zaki Zahed, chief of the provincial council, said US military officials took him to a burn pit on the base where 60 to 70 books, including Korans, were recovered. The books were used by detainees once incarcerated at the base, he said.

General Allen added: “When we learned of these actions, we immediately intervened and stopped them. The materials recovered will be properly handled by appropriate religious authorities.

“We are thoroughly investigating the incident and we are taking steps to ensure this does not ever happen again. I assure you – I promise you – this was NOT intentional in any way.”

Picture: Getty