BAGHDAD (AP) — A U.S. Marine handed out coins promoting Christianity to Muslims in the former insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, outraged Sunni officials said Friday. The U.S. military responded quickly, removing a trooper from duty pending an investigation.
It was the second perceived insult to Islam by American service members this month. A U.S. sniper was sent out of the country after using a Quran, Islam's holy book, for target practice.
Photographs of the coins, which were inscribed with phrases in Arabic, were widely distributed via cell phones in Fallujah and were seen by an Associated Press employee.
One side asked: "Where will you spend eternity?"
The other contained a verse from the New Testament: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16."
Such actions by American service members threaten to alienate Sunni Arabs who have become key allies in the fight against insurgents, a movement that started in Anbar province, which includes Fallujah.
Distribution of the coins in Fallujah was particularly sensitive because the city, 40 miles west of Baghdad, is known for its large number of mosques. It was the center of the Sunni-led insurgency before a massive U.S. offensive in November 2004.