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Eight UN workers killed at anti-Quran burning protests

Eight foreign staff – five of them Nepalese – are killed, with two beheaded, as four protesters also die.

Afghans carry one of the injured UN staff to medical aid after this afternoon's protests. The injured man later died in hospital.
Afghans carry one of the injured UN staff to medical aid after this afternoon's protests. The injured man later died in hospital.
Image: Mustafa Najafizada/AP

Eight foreigners and four Afghan protesters have been killed when a demonstration against the burning of a Quran turned violent in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

Afghan officials said about 2,000 people had gathered peacefully outside the UN office in the city, but some protesters had grabbed weapons from the UN guards and opened fire on the police, then stormed the building. Black smoke billowed from the building.

General Daud Daud, commander of Afghan National Police in the north, says five Nepalese guards were among those killed. A spokesman for Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry said four protesters also were killed.

The topic of Quran burning stirred outrage among millions of Muslims and others worldwide after a small American church in Florida threatened to destroy the holy book last year. The Florida pastor, Terry Jones, had backed down but purportedly went through with the burning last month, prompting protests in three Afghan cities.

Dan McNorton, a spokesman for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, confirmed that people working for the UN had died in an attack on the operation center, but he could not provide details.

“The situation is still confusing and we are currently working to ascertain all the facts and take care of all our staff,” he said from his office in Kabul.

Staffan de Mistura, the top UN official in Afghanistan, had left Kabul for Mazar-i-Sharif to personally handle the situation, he said.

Several hundred people also protested the reported Quran burning at several sites in Herat, a city in western Afghanistan. Protesters burned a US flag at a sports stadium in Herat while chanting slogans like “death to the US” and “they broke the heart of Islam”.

- AP

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