UN workers killed by Afghans over burning of a Qur'an in Florida

Saturday, April 2, 2011

An Afghan mob attacked a United Nations compound last Friday, killing seven UN workers and setting fire to the compound. The attack occurred after several hours of peaceful protests, broadcast online, over the burning of a Qur'an by a Florida pastor.

The protest occurred in the northern Afghanistan city of Mazar-e-Sharif and was in response to reports that controversial US pastor Terry Jones had instigated the burning of a Qur'an on March 20 by his colleague Wayne Sapp at the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida.

Jones drew criticism last year when he announced plans to burn Qur'ans on the anniversary of 9/11. At that time there were several protests in Afghanistan. Jones was persuaded not to carry out his plans, influenced by a phone call from Afghanistan commander US Gen. David Petraeus who feared burning the Qur'an would result in the deaths of US military personnel.

Friday's attack occurred after several hours of protests by approximately 2000 demonstrators in front of the UN compound in Mazar-e-Sharif that was broadcast online. Demonstrators began to throw stones, tried to climb the compound walls, and then overwhelmed the UN guards positioned outside the compound, taking their weapons and shooting at Afghan police. They set parts of the compound on fire.

According to Reuters, three UN staff and four Gurkha guards were killed. The UN victims included personnel from Nepal, Norway, Sweden and Romania. The UN is still in the process of determining the exact death toll and the extent of the damage. At least four demonstrators were killed also.