A senior US commander has apologised after a series of controversial leaflets were dropped in Afghanistan.
The pamphlets, distributed on Tuesday in Parwan province, north of Kabul, were deemed “highly offensive” by Major-General James Linder.
Images used showed a white dog, with a passage from the Quran used in Taliban banners superimposed on its side, fleeing from a lion.
Above the picture of the lion and the dog, the handout implored people to report combatants operating in the region.
“Take back your freedom from the terrorist dogs and cooperate with coalition forces so they can target your enemy and eliminate them,” it said.
‘Highly offensive image’
In a statement, Linder said: “The design of the leaflets mistakenly contained an image highly offensive to both Muslims and the religion of Islam.
“I sincerely apologise. We have the deepest respect for Islam and our Muslim partners worldwide.”
An investigation into the incident is under way, said a spokesman for the special operations forces at Bagram air base in Parwan. He refused to release a copy of the leaflet.
Mohammad Hasem, Parwan’s governor, declared the incident “unforgivable” and called for those responsible to be held accountable.
“Those who have committed this unforgivable mistake in the publicity, propaganda or media section of the coalition forces will be tried and punished,” he said.
Hassiba Efat, a member of the Parwan provincial council, told AFP news agency: “The leaflets are very offensive to Islam.
“The people in the villages are angry about it but so far we have had no reports of any demonstrations.
“They [foreign forces] have apologised and promised to collect as many of the leaflets as possible.”
The Afghan government and coalition forces have frequently used information campaigns in an attempt to persuade local populations to help them defeat the Taliban and other groups active in the country.
It is not the first time US forces have caused offence in Afghanistan where they have spent the past 16 years waging war against the Taliban.
In 2012 US troops set fire to copies of the Quran, leading to days of protests in which about 40 people died.
Source: News agencies