Afghan mob storms UN compound, kills foreigners over Koran burning

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.”

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Swede says:

    According to Swedish newspapers the European woman was a Siri Skare, 52, a Norwegian lieutenant colonel, and the man Joakim Dungel, 33, a lawyer from Sweden. May they and the Nepalese guards whose names I don’t know all rest in peace.
    Their photos are at the top of the page here:

  • mike Burk says:

    So what religion is not a religion of peace? This coined phrased of Islam being a religion of peace makes it sound as if other religions do not carry this principle. My eyes see different than what my ears hear. Islam is closer to being a political party then a religion.

  • gitsum says:


  • roy says:

    Islam is not a religion of peace…AMEN !

  • Charu says:

    Sickening! What sort of “prayers” incite mobs to violence? This isn’t the first time that Friday worship has led to rioting by Muslims over trivialities like the Danish cartoons or rumors of the Saudi Great Mosque being attacked or even the restoration of the Caliphate in Turkey. The victims are always non-Muslims who bear the brunt of the mindless fanaticism. The Florida pastor’s actions were incidental in that he just provided a convenient excuse for the mob to go berserk. I agree that the people involved in these barbaric attacks must be held accountable and that their must be no excuse given for their inhuman behavior. May the unfortunate victims, who were on a humanitarian mission, rest in peace.
    Isn’t Mazar-i-Sharif a Shia stronghold and didn’t they suffer greatly under the Sunni Taliban? Madness!

  • Russ says:

    Tell knuckleheads who spreading hate against Islam in the West to continue their job and then don’t be shocked by what happens next.Is it a shock when islamophobia takes open shots on TV channels and media? Well,for people in Afghanistan there is no difference since this country has been ravaged for decades now and cruelty is very common.Of course innocent people die in this kinda situations but was it preventable? Ask yourself a question.Did I do enough to stop public explicit rhetoric about Islam? I’m not justifying tragedy in Mazar Sharif with UN staff but given such attitude in the West is it really unexpected?

  • Rosario says:

    Mr. Jones’s pathetic and regretable play for attention went largely unnoticed by the mainstream media in the US. This incident would have been largely unnoticed in Afghanistan save for the comments of Hamid Karzai. What is very shameful is how Karzai, the Afghan “head” of State has acted to provoke emotions of his people resulting in many of their deaths:
    These attempts to manipulate taliban elements within his society will not endear him to their leadership, who likely reserve for a special place him in Aryana Square.

  • madashel59 says:

    Russ: Preventable? How about not preaching violence? I think the pastor’s point is being made. If the fanatical islamists want the rest of the world to respect them then they have to start respecting others outside of their own ideologies. They also must realize that if they really believe in Allah and his power a mere mortal burning his book or drawing a picture means nothing.
    As for the decades of being ravaged they should look no further than internally (both politically and personally) to solve their problems. Because the world is willing to help.


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