The Taliban have claimed responsibility for an explosion near Bagram airfield in Afghanistan, saying it was retaliation for the US distributing propaganda material that insulted Islam, The Guardian reported on Wednesday.
Six civilians were injured when a suicide bomber on a motorcycle detonated his explosives outside an entry checkpoint to the base, according to local officials.
Earlier on Wednesday, the US military in Afghanistan apologized for dropping leaflets featuring a passage from the Qur’an superimposed on to the image of a dog.
The leaflets depicted a lion chasing a dog bearing a Qur’anic passage that appears on banners used by Taliban militants.
However, the passage used is also the basic Islamic statement of faith, and associating one of Islam’s most sacred texts with a dog, considered unclean in Islam, could cause offence.
Maj Gen James Linder, the US special operations commander in Afghanistan, said in a statement: “I sincerely apologize. We have the deepest respect for Islam and our Muslim partners worldwide. There is no excuse for this mistake.
“I am reviewing our procedures to determine the cause of this incident and to hold the responsible party accountable. Furthermore, I will make appropriate changes so this never happens again.”
The leaflet drop was the latest in a series of perceived insults to Afghans by coalition forces during the conflict, which have undermined goodwill and threatened to roll back hard-fought gains.
In 2012, US soldiers mistakenly burned a stack of Qur’ans while incinerating a collection of damaged books and texts from the library at Bagram airfield. The burning prompted protests across the country, during which several people were killed.
The same year, a film of US marines urinating on the dead bodies of Taliban fighters prompted an official investigation and criminal charges.
For years, foreign soldiers have entered homes without invitation during searches, unleashed dogs on villagers and searched through women’s quarters, violating deeply held customs.
Dropping propaganda leaflets is a basic part of military psychology operations, and has been widely used by coalition forces in Afghanistan.
The recent leaflet reads: “Take back your freedom from the terrorist dogs and cooperate with coalition forces so they can identify and eliminate your enemy.”
The governor of Parwan, Mohammad Asim, condemned the dog image as “unforgivable” but said he and other leaders had tried to mediate.