Editor’s note: Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin is an online, subscription intelligence news service from the creator of WorldNetDaily.com – a journalist who has been developing sources around the world for almost 30 years.

WASHINGTON – Were 15 to 18 people really killed in Afghan riots sparked by Newsweek’s now discredited and retracted story about a Quran being flushed down the toilet by U.S. military interrogators in Guantanamo Bay?

That claim, reported as fact by hundreds of news agencies over the last week, is being questioned in a report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin, the weekly, premium, online intelligence newsletter published by WND.

For more than a week, the Newsweek story has dominated international headlines, but the claim that up to 18 people were killed in riots in Afghanistan in connection with the release of the story remains unsubstantiated, G2 Bulletin reports.

From the beginning, Newsweek’s Quran-in-the-toilet “scoop” has been a story with many twists.

First, Newsweek’s 10-sentence blurb in the May 9 edition claimed multiple U.S. government sources were behind the allegation that a Quran was flushed down the toilet during an interrogation of a suspected terrorist at Guantanamo Bay.

Then it turned out Newsweek had only one source – who later denied being able to back up the story.

Then there were riots in Afghanistan, the Far East and the Palestinian Authority – all, the international media reported, connected to the Newsweek story.

Later, many who had first-hand knowledge of the disturbances said they were planned months in advance and had little or no connection to the Newsweek story.

But now there’s a new twist.

Virtually every major news agency in the world has reported without verification that between 15 and 18 Afghanis were killed in the riots.

There’s just one problem. There is no more evidence for these deaths than there is that a U.S. interrogator flushed a Quran down the toilet.

Not a single name of even one victim has been released. No details of the circumstances of the riots were released from any official sources – either U.S. or Afghan.

Who were these victims? Were they rioters killed by police or military forces? Were they innocent victims attacked by fanatics? Were they Afghanis? Were they relief workers?

G2B has examined every English-language news story about these deaths through Lexis Nexis. G2B has scoured the Internet, including foreign and non-English-language news sources for any details of these deaths. And G2B has queried both U.S. and Afghan official sources for any details about these alleged deaths.

No U.S. officials contacted can provide any corroboration for any deaths. And Afghan officials uniformly clam up with apprehension at the mere asking of questions.

“I have no comment,” said one official at the Afghan embassy in Washington who asked not to be identified.

When told he wasn’t being asked for a comment, just any public information about the casualties in what has become the biggest international news story, he said: “I cannot say anything.”

“There should be an investigation,” he said. “I cannot say any more. Please do not quote me. This is very sensitive.”

Now, some sources inside the U.S. government are saying off the record that they believe the death toll may have been deliberately exaggerated by Islamists – perhaps even some Afghan government officials – who want to make a point about the grievous nature of the supposed Quran desecration.

Demonstrations were continuing throughout the last week – with protesters lifting photos of Osama bin Laden and denouncing President Bush – even after Newsweek retracted the story.

Some participants waved signs including one marked: “Desecrate today and see another 9/11 tomorrow”, referring to the 2001 terrorist bombings in New York and Washington.

A small group of protesters also set fire to an American flag and a wooden cross, before organizers appealed for calm.

One of the event organizers, calling itself Supporters Of Sharia, claimed that U.S. desecration of the Quran happened all over the world, despite the retraction of a report describing such abuse taking place at Guantanamo Bay.

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