Page last updated at 13:14 GMT, Sunday, 18 May 2008 14:14 UK

US sniper shot at Koran in Iraq

A US sniper in Iraq
The US military said the soldier's actions were an isolated incident

An American sniper has been sent home from Iraq for using a copy of the Koran for target practice at a shooting range near Baghdad, the US military says.

The Muslim holy book was found riddled with bullet holes last week by Iraqi police, who also discovered offensive graffiti inside its cover.

A US military spokesman said the soldier had been removed from his unit, sent home, and would be disciplined.

He was unnamed, but was reportedly a staff sergeant in a sniper section.

US military spokesman Colonel Bill Buckner said the incident was "both serious and deeply troubling", but stressed it was an "isolated incident and a result of one soldier's actions".

The US army's commander in Baghdad, Major-General Jeffery Hammond, made a personal apology to local Sunni Arab leaders in Radwaniya, CNN reported.

On arrival, he was met by hundreds of protesting tribesmen.

"In the most humble manner, I look into your eyes today and I say, please forgive me and my soldiers," Gen Hammond said, according to CNN.

The military presented the elders with a new copy of the Koran.

An Iraqi community leader said Sunni Arab tribal units who fought alongside US forces had threatened to quit, but that the US apology had assuaged their anger.

"I was feeling bitterness, but as long as they apologised we are okay with them. Our anger has cooled," Saeed al-Zubaie told Reuters.

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