Opinion: Afghan mob, angry at Terry Jones’ Koran burning, attacks U.N. staff; at least 20 dead

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Enraged by a Koran burned 12 days ago by Florida pastor Terry Jones, halfway around the globe, about 1,000 angry people attacked United Nations guards Fridaystationed in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif in Afghanistan, killing at least 20 U.N. personnel.

Riled up by mosque preachers at Friday prayers, the most important of the Muslim week, this was the deadliest attack on U.N. members in Afghanistan.


President Obama, who was the target of at least one Afghan protester’s sign (‘Down with America, Down with Obama’), quickly denounced the violence. ‘I condemn in the strongest possible terms the attack on the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan today,’ Obama said. ‘The brave men and women of the United Nations, including the Afghan staff, undertake their work in support of the Afghan people. Their work is essential to building a stronger Afghanistan for the benefit of all its citizens. We stress the importance of calm and urge all parties to reject violence and resolve differences through dialogue.’

Some are noting that this use of force was more grass-roots and emotional, and quite different from aggression organized by the Taliban.

‘Foreigners have been killed in Afghanistan before, and today’s attack was not the first fatal attack on UN staff. But it was different than previous fatal attacks. Very different,’ Una Moore wrote on a website called UN Dispatch (unaffiliated with the United Nations) claiming the killers were not part of the Taliban, but average unarmed residents who stormed the U.N. compound and wrestled weapons from U.N. guards who were then killed.

‘Tonight, the governor of Balkh province, of which Mazar-i-Sharif is the capital, is telling the international media that the men who sacked the UN compound were Taliban infiltrators. That’s rubbish,’ wrote Moore, who is described on the site as an international development professional based in Afghanistan. ‘Local clerics drove around the city with megaphones yesterday, calling residents to protest the actions of a small group of attention-seeking, bigoted Americans. Then, during today’s protest, someone announced that not just one, but hundreds of Korans had been burned in America. A throng of enraged men rushed the gates of the UN compound, determined to draw blood.’

And draw blood they did. Among the fallen were five guards from Nepal, as well as civilians from Norway, Sweden and Romania. Four local rioters were also killed and more 100 others were injured in a city in northern Afghanistan typically considered one of the calmer corners of the war-torn country.

Terry Jones, the pastor behind the controversial Koran burning, condemned the violencein a statement he posted online.

‘In regard to the riots that have just taken place in Afghanistan at the UN headquarters, the actions of breaking in, setting on fire, and killing of at least 10 individuals so far is highly unacceptable for the government of the United States,’ Jones wrote on the Dove World Outreach Center’s website.

‘We, at Stand Up America Now, find this a very tragic and criminal action,’ Jones wrote. ‘The United States government and the United Nations itself, must take immediate action. We must hold these countries and people accountable for what they have done as well as for any excuses they may use to promote their terrorist activities. The time has come to hold Islam accountable.’


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Note: Andrew Malcom is on vacation.

--Tony Pierce

Top photo: Afghans chant anti-U.S. slogans during a demonstration in Mazar-i- Sharif in northern Afghanistan. Eight foreigners were killed Friday after demonstrators protesting a reported burning of the Muslim holy book stormed a United Nations office in Mazar-i-Sharif, opening fire on guards and setting fires inside the compound, a top Afghan police official said. Credit: AP Photo/Mustafa Najafizada

Second photo: Dove World Outreach Center church pastor Terry Jones speaks to the media in Gainesville, Fla., in this Sept. 8 photo. Afghan protesters, apparently angered by the burning of a Koran by Jones last month, killed up to 20 U.N. staff members in Mazar-i-Sharif on Friday in the worst attack n the United Nations in Afghanistan. Reuters/Scott Audette/Files