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Taliban claims revenge for "highly offensive" U.S. military leaflet

KABUL, Afghanistan -- A U.S. commander on Wednesday apologized for leaflets dropped in Afghanistan that were deemed offensive to Islam.

The leaflets dropped Monday night, which encouraged Afghans to cooperate with security forces, included an image of a dog carrying the Taliban flag, said Shah Wali Shahid, the deputy governor of Parwan province. The flag has Islamic verses inscribed on it, and dogs are seen as unclean in much of the Muslim world.

"Local people are very upset with this incident, and they want the perpetrators brought to justice," Shahid said, adding that demonstrations were expected across the province.

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Maj. Gen. James Linder apologized, acknowledging in a statement that "the design of the leaflets mistakenly contained an image highly offensive to both Muslims and the religion of Islam." He offered his "sincerest apologies for this error."

Throughout the 16-year Afghan war, U.S. forces have struggled to convince ordinary Afghans to help them defeat the Taliban. Afghanistan is a deeply conservative country, and alleged blasphemy has sparked riots.

Seizing upon the opportunity cast the U.S. invasion and ongoing military deployment in Afghanistan as an attack on Islam, a Taliban Twitter account on Wednesday pointed to the leaflet as evidence that, "American invaders are the enemies of our religion."

"Now you must have realized that the Mujahideen (Taliban) are protecting our faith and the country," the tweet said. 

Several hours later, a man on a motorcycle blew himself up in front of Bagram Airbase, the largest U.S. military base in Afghanistan, injuring four people, according to local officials. Bagram district chief Abdul Shukor Qudos told CBS News no U.S. forces were killed or injured in the blast.  

The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility in a statement, saying the attack was retaliation for the leaflets dropped by U.S. forces in Parwan province.

Wahida Shakar, the spokesperson for the regional government in Parwan, cited the U.S. military's apology and said there was no public protest "planned" as a response. It was unclear whether Islamic hardliners in the region, and elsewhere in Afghanistan, would take to the streets to show their discontent.

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