U.S. Soldier Sent Home for Firing on Quran

BAGHDAD -- A U.S. soldier has been disciplined and ordered from Iraq, the U.S. military said on Sunday, for using a copy of the Quran for target practice at a shooting range near Baghdad.

Such an act of desecration of the Muslim holy book could inflame anger against the U.S. military presence in Iraq, but an Iraqi community leader said an apology by senior American military commanders had helped calm tensions.

Saeed al-Zubaie, head of a U.S.-allied Sunni Arab tribal council in the area where the Quran was found, said the book had been used as target practice. It was peppered with 14 bullet holes and offensive language had been scrawled inside, he said.

"I was feeling bitterness, but as long as they apologized we are OK with them. Our anger has cooled," said Zubaie, adding that Sunni Arab tribal units who work alongside U.S. forces in the area had threatened to quit unless the military took action.

The U.S. television news network CNN said U.S. commanders were met by hundreds of protesters when they went to the village of Radwaniya near Baghdad to deliver the apology.

Colonel Bill Buckner, a U.S. military spokesman, said commanders were ordered to swiftly investigate after Iraqi police found the Quran on May 11 at a firing range in Radwaniya.

He described the incident as "serious and deeply troubling."

"Coalition commanders have briefed local leaders on the results of the investigation and expressed their deep regret," Buckner said in a statement.

"They have also undertaken disciplinary action against the soldier who was involved, and he has been removed from Iraq."