Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has apologized to the Afghan people, following reports that religious materials, including the Quran, might have been inappropriately dumped and burned by U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Reports of what might have been the mishandling of religious materials have triggered demonstrations outside Bagram Air Base north of Kabul, prompting U.S. and NATO officials to issue quick apologies.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called the reported incident "deeply unfortunate" and said the action do not represent the views of the United States military.
"There were religious materials, including copies of the Quran that were inappropriately handled. And for that, we are apologizing. That is inappropriate," said Little. His statement was conveyed by Panetta’s spokesman, George Little.
Reports quoting witnesses at Bagram Air Base say U.S. soldiers dumped the materials at a site where rubbish is usually incinerated. Little says it is unclear whether the materials were burned.
"Something inappropriate occurred with respect to the treatment of these religious materials" Little added. "We understand how sensitive the treatment of religious materials is to the Afghan people and to others."
NATO has ordered an investigation that is being carried out jointly with the Afghan government.
Officials are not saying where the materials might have come from or why they were being discarded. They say the U.S. military normally abides by a set of rules for the appropriate disposal of religious materials.
Officials say they have ordered the retraining of troops to ensure they understand how religious materials should be treated.