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White House: Quran Abuse Isolated

Members of Bangladesh Soldiers of Islam, the children wing of Youth Jamiyat, hold the Quran during an anti-U.S. protest in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Friday, June 3, 2005. The group was demonstrating against the alleged desecration of the Quran by U.S. soldiers in Guantanamo Bay. (AP Photo/Pavel Rahman)
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U.S. military officials say no guard at the Guantanamo Bay prison for terror suspects flushed a detainee's Quran down the toilet, but they disclosed that a Muslim holy book was splashed with urine. But Saturday, the White House downplayed the issue.

In other newly disclosed incidents, a detainee's Quran was deliberately kicked and another's was stepped on.

A day after the Pentagon confirmed a series of instances of U.S. personnel mishandling the Quran, the White House is downplaying the issue. The president's spokesman says it's "unfortunate" some people have chosen to take out of context "a few isolated incidents by a few individuals."

Friday night, the Pentagon confirmed several incidents of U.S. guards at Guantanamo Bay prison mistreating the Quran. They include a guard deliberately kicking the holy book as well as someone writing an obscenity in a Quran. A guard's urine also splashed on a prisoner's Quran.

Two weeks ago, the White House responded with a verbal offensive against the media after a now-retracted Newsweek article alleged U.S. interrogators at the detention center had flushed a Quran down a toilet.

White House officials note that the investigation also found 15 cases of detainees mishandling their own Qurans.

On March 25, a detainee complained to guards that "urine came through an air vent" and splashed on him and his Quran. A guard admitted he was at fault, but a report released Friday evening offering new details about Quran mishandling incidents did not make clear whether the guard intended the result.

In another confirmed incident, water balloons thrown by prison guards caused an unspecified number of Qurans to get wet, and in a confirmed but ambiguous case, a two-word obscenity was written in English on the inside cover of a Quran.

The findings, released after normal business hours Friday evening and after the major TV networks had aired their evening news programs, are among the results of an investigation last month by Brig. Gen. Jay Hood, the commander of the detention center in Cuba. A Newsweek magazine report — later retracted — that a U.S. soldier had flushed one Guantanamo Bay detainee's Quran down a toilet triggered the investigation.

The story stirred worldwide controversy, and the Bush administration blamed it for deadly demonstrations in Afghanistan.

Hood said in a written statement released with the new details that his investigation "revealed a consistent, documented policy of respectful handling of the Quran dating back almost 2½ years."

Captain Jeff Weir, deputy public information officer at Guantanamo Bay, told CBS News that the number of incidents in relations to the thousands and thousands of detainees who have come through the prison is minute.

Lawrence Di Rita, chief spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, did not address the confirmed incidents of mishandling the Muslim holy book. Reached while traveling with Rumsfeld in Asia, he said U.S. Southern Command policy calls for "serious, respectful and appropriate" handling of the Quran.