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Thursday, May 24 2018 @ 06:08 AM EDT

Apology soothes outrage in Iraq: U.S. soldier punished for abusing Quran

By Alexandra Zavis
Tribune newspapers
May 19, 2008

BAGHDAD U.S. commanders moved swiftly to avert a crisis after a soldier deployed in Baghdad was found to have used a copy of the Quran for target practice.

The incident risked compromising the delicate alliance that the U.S. military has been forging with Sunni Arab communities against religious extremists.

The military said Sunday that the soldier responsible had been disciplined and pulled from Iraq.

Col. Bill Buckner, a U.S. military spokesman, described the incident as "serious and deeply troubling" but called it an isolated case.
Iraqi police found the desecrated copy of the Muslim holy book May 11 at a shooting range near a police station in Radwaniyah, a mostly Sunni district near Baghdad, Buckner said. The volume was riddled with bullets and had graffiti inside the cover.

Community leaders were outraged and threatened to stop helping the U.S. fight Sunni militants, said Ayad Jabouri, a tribal leader and member of the country's largest Sunni political party.

The military did not release the soldier's name or detail how he would be disciplined.

A CNN crew was present as Army Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond, commander of U.S. troops in Baghdad, met Saturday with tribal leaders in Radwaniyah to apologize before a crowd of protesters.

"You have my word, this will never happen again," Hammond said, according to CNN. "In the most humble manner, I look in your eyes today, and I say please forgive me and my soldiers."

Another U.S. commander then presented the tribal leaders with a new Quran, which he first kissed and touched to his forehead.

Jabouri said local sheiks had accepted the apology.

In other developments Sunday, a U.S. soldier was killed and another injured when their vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb in Salahuddin province, the military said.

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