A mob of Afghans in Mazar-i-Sharif, incited by a cleric over the burning of a Koran in Florida, did something in the Afghan north that the Taliban are rarely able to pull off: overrun a compound protected by armed guards, and execute foreigners working there. There are conflicting reports over the number of UN workers killed; it appears that five Nepalese security guards and two or three Europeans were shot and killed. One Afghan official claimed two Europeans were beheaded but this has not been confirmed. From The New York Times:
The incident began when thousands of protesters poured out of the Blue Mosque in Mazar-i-Sharif after Friday prayers and attacked the nearby headquarters of the United Nations, according to Lal Mohammad Ahmadzai, spokesman for Gen. Daoud Daoud, the Afghan National Police commander for northern Afghanistan.
After disarming or shooting the United Nations compound’s guards, the crowd surged inside. Mr. Ahmadzai said that eight of the foreign staff workers, whose nationalities were not known immediately, were killed by gunfire, and that two others were captured by the mob and beheaded. Other reports said that the operations center was burned down as well.
The governor of Balkh Province, Atta Mohammad Noor, said that seven United Nations employees were killed in all, five Nepali security guards and two European international staff, one of them a woman. He said earlier reports of beheadings were unfounded; all of the victims were shot.
The crowd, which he estimated at 20,000, overwhelmed police forces and the United Nations security guards, and the weapons they used in the attack may have been those they seized from the United Nations guards, he said. He claimed that some insurgents disguised as demonstrators had used the protest as a pretext to attack the United Nations.
Gen. Abdul Raouf Taj, the deputy police commander for Balkh Province, where Mazar-i-Sharif is located, put the death toll at eight foreign staff workers and said there had not been any beheadings. The attack was carried out by “thousands of people,” he said. “Police tried to stop them, but protesters began stoning the building and finally the situation got out of control.”
A spokesman for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, Kieran Dwyer, said the attack had occurred during a demonstration. “We can confirm there have been casualties, including U.N. personnel, but the situation on the ground remains very confusing,” he said. The casualties included some deaths, he added, but could not give a number or the nationalities of the victims.
The Mazar-i-Sharif incident is sure to be sending shock waves through the United Nations, non-governmental organizations, and ISAF, as there is little that can be done to prevent such an attack once a mob reaches a foreign compound, short of opening fire on the crowd.
This situation may escalate further; Terry Jones, the pastor in charge of the Dove World Outreach Center, in Gainesville, FLA, who sponsored the Koran burning, said the following in the aftermath of the Mazar-i-Sharif slaughter (from The New York Post):
Following Friday’s attack, Sky News reported Jones issued a statement saying, “We, at Stand Up America Now, find this a very tragic and criminal action. 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.
“Our United States government and our President must take a close, realistic look at the radical element Islam. Islam is not a religion of peace. It is time that we call these people to accountability. We demand that our United States government stand up and speak out against these acts. These people must be called to justice.”
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