INTERNATIONAL

Pentagon confirms desecration of Koran

Sridhar Krishnaswami

WASHINGTON: The Pentagon has confirmed that American soldiers at Guantanamo Bay detention centre desecrated the Koran. The U.S. Defence department has now acknowledged in the wake of widespread criticism in this country and overseas that a soldier deliberately kicked the holy book; an interrogator stepped on the Koran and was later fired for a "pattern" of unacceptable behaviour.

According to the latest report, a detenu had complained thatwater balloons thrown by guards had damaged a number of Korans; and a two letter obscene word in English was written inside the cover of the Koran.

The findings are the result of an investigation undertaken by Brigadier General Jay Hood, the Commander of the detention centre at Guantanamo.

The spokesman for the Defence Secretary travelling in Asia says that the U.S. Southern Command Policy calls for "serious, respectful and appropriate" handling of the Koran and that the Hood inquiry "would appear to confirm" that policy.

The inquiry came about in the aftermath of a magazine report — later retracted — that an American soldier at Guantanamo had flushed a detenu's Koran down the toilet. That story triggered major demonstrations and violence in parts of South and West Asia.

In a statement, Brig. Gen. Hood has said that his investigation revealed a "consistent, documented policy of respectful handling of the Koran" going back to two and a half years.

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