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In first statement since attack, Rihanna thanks fans

Hours after the LAPD launched an investigation into a photo purportedly showing a battered Rihanna, the pop star thanked fans for their support but declined to address the alleged attack by boyfriend Chris Brown in her first statement since the incident.

"At the request of the authorities, Rihanna is not commenting about the incident involving Chris Brown," read a statement released by Rubenstein Associates Friday. "She wants to assure her fans that she remains strong, is doing well, and deeply appreciates the outpouring of support she has received during this difficult time."

The statement was released hours after the Web site TMZ released a photo alleged to show the battered face of the pop star, with bruises on her forehead, bloody lips and other marks on her face.

The Los Angeles Police Department announced it was investigating the leak shortly after the photos were posted Thursday evening. On Friday, Chief William Bratton said his department is conducting an internal investigation, but also a criminal conspiracy case that could result in up to 3 years in prison.

"It as an embarrassment to this department," Bratton said. He said the agency believes a department employee leaked the photo, and that the department is working to quickly complete separate investigations into Rihanna's beating and the photo's leak.

Brown was arrested Feb. 8 on suspicion of making criminal threats but was not charged immediately because the Los Angeles County district attorney's office said police needed to gather additional evidence in the case.

Police sources have said that Rihanna is cooperating with investigators in building a domestic violence case against Brown and indicated that she had suffered bruises and a scratch on her face resulting from the altercation with Brown. She was treated at a "major medical facility," a police source said.

Both stars were due to perform Feb. 8 at the Grammy Awards show but subsequently dropped out; Brown surrendered to authorities as the ceremony was under way.

Since the alleged attack, both stars have kept a low profile, but Brown, free on $50,000 bail, issued a statement of remorse last weekend, saying, in part: "Words cannot begin to express how sorry and saddened I am over what transpired."

Friday marks Rihanna's 21st birthday. The platinum-selling singer canceled a planned birthday bash in New York and postponed concerts overseas in the days following the incident.

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