U.S. General John Allen, the head of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, apologized Tuesday for the improper disposal of Korans at Bagram Airbase.
“I assure you … I promise you … this was NOT intentional in any way,” Allen said in a statement. “I offer my sincere apologies for any offense 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.”
The Koran, as well as additional religious materials, were reportedly incinerated after being confiscated from detainees ocated near the base. According to the BBC, the books may have been confiscated out of fear that they were being used to send messages. Afghan-born personnel witnessed the incident and informed ISAF.
In an attempt to quell Afghan outrage, including a large protest outside of the base, Allen said that ISAF has launched an investigation into the incident and will take steps to ensure it does not happen again. He noted that any remaining materials base personnel are able to recover will “be properly handled by religious authorities.”
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta threw his weight behind the investigation, saying Tuesday that he ”will carefully review the final results of the investigation to ensure that we take all steps necessary and appropriate so that this never happens again.”
A Koran burning by controversial American pastor Terry Jones last April prompted an outbreak of violence in the Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif. Seven UN employees and two Afghan police officers were killed amid the protests.