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Iraq party: Punish U.S. soldier who shot at Quran

  • Story Highlights
  • Iraqi Islamic Party calls Quran incident "blatant assault" on Muslim holy book
  • U.S. soldier used Quran for target practice, military investigation found
  • U.S. commander in Baghdad has issued formal apology
  • Soldier relieved of duty, will be reassigned after sending letter of apology
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq's most powerful Sunni Arab political party on Monday said a U.S. soldier's desecration of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, requires the "severest of punishments," not just an apology and a military reassignment.

art.iraq.quran.cnn.jpg

Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond apologizes after a U.S. soldier admitted using the Quran for target practice.

The Iraqi Islamic Party, the movement of Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, condemned what it said was a "blatant assault on the sanctities of Muslims all over the world."

An American staff sergeant who was a sniper section leader used a Quran for target practice on May 9.

The U.S. commander in Baghdad on Saturday issued a formal apology and read a letter of apology from the shooter.

The sergeant has been relieved of duty as a section leader "with prejudice," officially reprimanded by his commanding general, dismissed from his regiment and redeployed -- reassigned to the United States.

But the Iraqi Islamic Party -- which said it reacted to the news "with deep resentment and indignation" -- wants the "severest of punishments" for the action.

"What truly concerns us is the repetition of these crimes that have happened in the past when mosques were destroyed and pages of the Holy Quran were torn and used for disgraceful acts by U.S. soldiers," al-Hashimi said.

"I have asked that first this apology be officially documented; second a guarantee from the U.S. military to inflict the maximum possible punishment on this soldier so it would be a deterrent for the rest of the soldiers in the future."

A tribal leader said "the criminal act by U.S. forces" took place at a shooting range at the Radhwaniya police station on Baghdad's western outskirts. After the shooters left, an Iraqi policeman found a target marked in the middle of the bullet-riddled Quran.
Read how the soldier could have provoked a crisis

Copies of the pictures of the Quran obtained by CNN show multiple bullet holes and an expletive scrawled on one of its pages.

On Saturday, Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond, commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad, appeared at an apology ceremony flanked by leaders from Radhwaniya. Video Watch as the U.S. formally apologizes »

"I come before you here seeking your forgiveness," Hammond said to tribal leaders and others gathered. "In the most humble manner, I look in your eyes today, and I say please forgive me and my soldiers."

Another military official kissed a Quran and presented it as "a humble gift" to the tribal leaders.

Hammond also read from the shooter's letter: "I sincerely hope that my actions have not diminished the partnership that our two nations have developed together. ... My actions were shortsighted, very reckless and irresponsible, but in my heart [the actions] were not malicious."

Hammond said, "The actions of one soldier were nothing more than criminal behavior. I've come to this land to protect you, to support you -- not to harm you -- and the behavior of this soldier was nothing short of wrong and unacceptable."

The soldier reportedly claimed he wasn't aware the book was the Quran, but U.S. officials rejected his assertion.

Tribal leaders, dignitaries and local security officials attended the ceremony, while residents carried banners and chanted slogans, including, "Yes, yes to the Quran" and "America out, out." Video Watch as villagers protest the Quran incident »

Sheikh Hamadi al-Qirtani, in a speech on behalf of all tribal sheikhs of Radhwaniya, called the shooting "aggression against the entire Islamic world."

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The Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq also condemned the shooter's actions and the U.S. military's belated acknowledgment of what happened.

"As the Association of Muslim Scholars condemns this heinous crime against God's holy book, the constitution of this nation, a source of pride and dignity," the group's statement said, "they condemned the silence by all those who are part of the occupation's agenda and holds the occupation and the current government fully responsible for this violation and reminds everyone that God preserves his book and he [God] is a great avenger."

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