Mob kills 8 UN workers in Afghanistan

Apr 1 2011 - 2:04pm

KABUL, Afghanistan -- A mob inflamed by a mosque sermon describing the burning of the Muslim holy book by an American pastor attacked a United Nations compound in a northern Afghan city on Friday, killing at least eight foreign staffers, according to Afghan police.

A spokesman for the U.N. mission in Afghanistan, Dan McNorton, confirmed that there had been deaths of U.N. personnel in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif, but said he did not have further details.

Sherjan Durrani, a spokesman for the provincial police, identified the dead as guards at the U.N. compound who were believed to be from the Philippines. However, some Afghan news reports said the dead included guards who were overpowered in the attack as well as other U.N. workers who were inside the compound at the time.

Durrani said four rioters had also been killed and that more than 100 others were injured in the outbreak of violence in the northern city, normally one of the calmer corners of Afghanistan.

The rioting erupted after mosque preachers at Friday prayers -- the most important of the Muslim week -- sermonized against the burning of the Quran by an American evangelical pastor in Florida. After the service, up to 1,000 worshippers marched on the U.N. compound and overran it, police said.

Durrani said order was restored and that about two dozen people had been arrested for taking part in the attack.

McNorton, the U.N. spokesman, said the head of the world body's mission in Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, was traveling to Mazar-e-Sharif, which is north of the capital, Kabul. Even hours after the attack, he said neither the death toll nor the nationalities of those killed could be confirmed.

"The situation is still confusing, and we are currently working to ascertain all the facts and take care of all our staff," he said.

Friday's violence was the worst attack against U.N. staffers in Afghanistan since October 2009, when gunmen and bombers stormed a guesthouse in the capital, killing five foreign U.N. workers and two guards. That prompted the world body to order the relocation of hundreds of expatriate employees.

Hundreds of people also took part in an anti-Quran-burning protest on Friday in Kabul, massing near a heavily guarded area where the U.S. Embassy and the headquarters of the NATO force is located. But the demonstrators eventually dispersed without incident.

(c) 2011, Los Angeles Times.

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