Several U.N. workers were killed Friday in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif. Reports indicate that a demonstration against the burning of a Quran by American pastors turned violent. There are conflicting reports about the number of people killed, and a U.N. spokesperson has issued a statement confirming the attack, while calling the incident "still confusing."
The AP reports that demonstrators stormed the U.N. office in Mazar-i-Sharif, "opening fire on guards and setting fires inside the compound." Gen. Daud Daud, commander of Afghan National Police in several northern provinces, told the AP that seven people were killed, including five guards working for the U.N. and two other people. Daud said one other person was wounded.
Afghan police spokesman Lal Mohammad Ahmadzai told AFP that 10 people had been killed.
"Ten (UN) people have been killed by the protesters (...) All the killed are foreigners," Ahmadzai said.
Ahmadzai also told Reuters that two of the victims were beheaded. (Reuters is reporting that eight people were killed.)
Dan McNorton, a spokesman for United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, issued a statement confirming the incident and that United Nations personnel had been killed, without attributing any motive to the attack.
"We can confirm that the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) operations centre in Mazar-i-Sharif, in northern Afghanistan has been attacked today following a demonstration," McNortan said. "We can also confirm that there have been United Nations personnel deaths. The situation is still confusing and we are currently working to ascertain all the facts and take care of all our staff. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Steffan de Mistura, is on his way to Mazar-i-Sharif now to deal with the situation personally on the ground."
In late March, Pastor Wayne Sapp burned a copy of the Quran in a Gainesville, Florida church, under the supervision of Terry Jones, who gained notoriety last year for his plan to burn Islam's holy book on the anniversary of September 11. The Quran was burned after being found "guilty" in a mock trial. According to AFP, fewer than 30 people attended the event, where a kerosene-soaked Quran was lit with a barbecue lighter and then proceeded to burn for about 10 minutes.
AFP reports that Afghan officials had condemned the burning, and President Hamid Karzai had called on the United States to bring those responsible to justice.
Afghans had previously protested Pastor Jones' plans in September, when several hundred people gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, and some shouted "Death to America" and "Long live Islam." According to the AP, members of parliament and religious leaders spoke at that rally.
Republished with permission from TalkingPointsMemo.com. Authored by Eric Lach. Photo via AP. TPM provides breaking news, investigative reporting and smart analysis of politics.