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7 UN Workers, 6 Afghani Protesters Killed in Mazar-i- Sharif, During Protest Against Burning Quran in Florida

April 1, 2011

NATO says its forces repel attack on Kabul base

By Deb Riechmann, Associated Press

Sat Apr 2, 12:57 am ET

KABUL, Afghanistan

Three insurgents (Taliban fighters) attacked a NATO base on the outskirts of Afghanistan's capital Saturday but were killed by coalition forces before they could enter the compound, NATO and Afghan police said.

The attack came just hours after Afghans angry over the burning of a Quran at a U.S. church stormed a U.N. compound in northern Afghanistan, killing seven foreigners.

NATO told The Associated Press in an email that three of its soldiers were wounded in Saturday's attack against Camp Phoenix, but that their injuries were not serious. The coalition said at least one attacker was possibly wearing a suicide vest. It added that the attack had ended.

Kabul provincial Police chief Gen. Mohammad Ayub Salangi said there were reports of three attackers involved and that two of them died when their vests detonated. He said a third was shot.

The base's gate had scorch marks on it, and an AP reporter at the scene saw some of the remains of at least one body belonging to a man who had blown himself up dangling from the gate.

Police officer Mohammad Shakir told the AP outside the base that two suicide bombers were involved in the attack and were apparently wearing burqas, the all-encompassing turquoise-colored coverings worn by many women in Afghanistan. The body of a third insurgent was just inside the gate, he said. He was shot and killed, Shakir said.

Camp Phoenix is a base on the eastern edge of Kabul used mostly by American forces to help train the Afghan army and police.

On Friday, Afghans angry over the burning of a Quran at a small Florida church stormed a U.N. compound in northern Afghanistan, killing seven foreigners, including four Nepalese guards.

Afghan authorities suspect insurgents melded into the mob. They announced the arrest of more than 20 people, including a militant they suspect was the ringleader of Friday's assault in Mazar-i-Sharif, the provincial capital of Balkh province. The suspect was an insurgent from Kapisa province, a hotbed of militancy about 250 miles (400 kilometers) southeast of the city, said Rawof Taj, deputy provincial police chief.

The topic of Quran burning stirred outrage among millions of Muslims and others worldwide after the Rev. Terry Jones' small church, Dove Outreach Center, threatened to destroy a copy of the holy book last year. The pastor backed down, but the church in Gainesville, Florida, went through with the burning last month.

Four protesters also died in the violence in Mazar-i-Sharif, which is on a list of the first seven areas of the country where Afghan security forces are slated to take over from the U.S.-led coalition starting in July. Other demonstrations, which were peaceful, were held in Kabul and Herat in western Afghanistan, fueling resentment against the West at a critical moment in the Afghan war.

Protesters burned a U.S. flag at a sports stadium in Herat and chanted "Death to the U.S." and "They broke the heart of Islam." About 100 people gathered at a traffic circle near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. One protester carried a sign that read: "We want these bloody bastard Americans with all their forces to leave Afghanistan."

U.N. peacekeeping chief Alain LeRoy said the top U.N. envoy in Afghanistan, Staffan De Mistura, who is in Mazar-i-Sharif, believes "the U.N. was not the target."

"They wanted to find an international target and the U.N. was the one there in Mazar-i-Sharif," LeRoy told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York.

The U.N. and national governments said the dead included four security guards from Nepal; Joakim Dungel, a 33-year-old Swede who worked at the U.N. office; Lt. Col. Siri Skare, a 53-year-old female pilot working for the U.N.; and a Romanian citizen.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the head of the mission in Mazar-i-Sharif, a Russian citizen, was injured in the attack, but not seriously.

Police who went to investigate said the U.N. compound was littered with broken glass and bullet casings.

Abdul Karim, a police officer in the city, said he saw the bullet-riddled bodies of three Nepalese guards lying in the yard and a fourth on the first floor.

He said another victim with a serious head wound died on a stairway to the basement of the compound. A man who was killed inside a room had severe wounds to his face and body, Karim said.

Munir Ahmad Farhad, a spokesman in Balkh province, said the protest began peacefully when several hundred demonstrators gathered outside the U.N. mission's compound, choosing an obvious symbol of the international community's involvement in Afghanistan to denounce the Quran's desecration. It turned violent when some protesters seized the guards' weapons and started shooting, then the crowds stormed the building and set fires that sent plumes of black smoke into the air, he said.

One protester, Ahmad Gul, a 32-year-old teacher in the city, gave a different account. He said the protesters disarmed three guards to prevent any violence from breaking out. Associated Press video showed protesters banging AK-47 rifles on the curb, breaking them into pieces. He said the protesters were killed and wounded by Afghan security forces.

"I disarmed three guards myself and we took out the bullets," Gul said, sternly shaking his finger as he shouted. "With my eyes, I saw them (Afghan security forces) kill two and wound 10." As he talked, he became increasingly indignant and he started shouting: "Death to America!" "We are going to fight."

LeRoy, the U.N. peacekeeping chief, said the security guards, all Gurkhas, "tried their best" but were unable to prevent the large number of demonstrators, some armed, from storming the U.N. compound.

The U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting late Friday and condemned the attack "in the strongest terms."

The U.N.'s most powerful body also condemned "all incitement to and acts of violence" and called on the Afghan government to bring those responsible to justice and take steps to protect U.N. personnel and premises.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is in Nairobi, said it was "an outrageous and cowardly attack against U.N. staff, which cannot be justified under any circumstances and I condemn in the strongest possible terms."

He instructed De Mistura to assess the situation and take any "necessary measures to ensure the safety of all U.N. staff."

LeRoy said U.N. officials would be reviewing security for U.N. personnel in Afghanistan.

President Barack Obama condemned the attack and underscored the importance of the U.N.'s work in Afghanistan.

"We stress the importance of calm and urge all parties to reject violence and resolve differences through dialogue," Obama said.

At the U.S. State Department, spokesman Mark Toner said the burning of a Quran in Florida was contrary to Americans' respect for Islam and religious tolerance. "This is an isolated act done by a small group of people and ... does not reflect the respect the people of the United States have toward Islam," he said.

The church's website stated that after a five-hour trial on March 20, the Quran "was found guilty and a copy was burned inside the building." A picture on the website shows a book in flames in a small portable fire pit. The church on Friday confirmed that the Quran had been burned.

In a statement, Jones did not comment on whether the church's act had led to the deaths. Instead he said it was time to "hold Islam accountable" and called on the United States and the U.N. to 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 U.N. has been the target of previous attacks.

In October 2010, a suicide car bomber and three armed militants wearing explosives vests and dressed as women attacked a U.N. compound in Herat in western Afghanistan. Afghan security forces killed the attackers and no U.N. employees were harmed. In October 2009, Taliban militants attacked a guesthouse used by United Nations workers in central Kabul. Eight people were killed, including five foreigners working for the U.N.

___

Associated Press writers Amir Shah in Kabul, Edith M. Lederer at the U.N. and Mitch Stacy in Tampa, Florida, contributed to this report.

12 killed in Afghanistan amid protests over reported Quran burning

By the CNN Wire Staff April 1, 2011 8:50 p.m. EDT

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) --

Security guards were overwhelmed U.N. source: Nepalese, Norwegian, Swedish and Romanian workers died Protesters were angered over the burning of a Quran at a U.S. church, sources say The pastor says the attack shows that "time has come to hold Islam accountable."

Twelve people were killed Friday in an attack on a U.N. compound in northern Afghanistan that followed a demonstration against the reported burning last month of a Quran in Florida, authorities said.

The fatalities comprised seven U.N. workers and five demonstrators, officials said.

Another 24 people were wounded, said Abdul Rauof Taj, security director of Balkh province.

Lal Mohammad Ahmadzai, a spokesman for the police in Mazar-e-Sharif, told reporters that a number of suspects "who might be the main organizers" had been arrested.

U.N. Peacekeeping Director Alain Le Roy said the seven U.N. fatalities were international staffers -- three civilians and four international security guards. No Afghan U.N. staff members were among the dead, he said.

"I understand there were hundreds, if not thousands, of demonstrators. Some of them were clearly armed and they stormed into the building."

He said the security guards tried their best to halt the demonstrators' advance, but were overwhelmed.

Le Roy said it was not clear that the United Nations was the target. "It happened to be the U.N. because the U.N. is on the ground."

Five demonstrators were killed in the violence; one person's throat was cut, he said.

A U.N .source said the dead included four Nepalese security guards as well as U.N. workers from Norway, Sweden and Romania.

The U.N. Security Council met Friday and issued a statement condemning the attack, which occurred at the operations center of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), and calling on the Afghan government to investigate.

Haji Sakhi Mohammad, a businessman in Mazar-e-Sharif, said that the incident began after Friday prayers, when many people joined a protest against the burning of the Quran. People calling "Death to America" marched to the U.N. compound and broke in, he said. At that, gunfire broke out and "I saw protesters shot to death."

A student in Mazar-e-Sharif said he and his friends joined the protesters, who numbered in the hundreds. "When we reached the UNAMA office, we came under gunfire by Afghan security guards. Protesters became angry and stormed the building."

The student said some of the protesters found several loaded AK-47s and used them to kill security guards and other people inside the building.

The attack followed a demonstration against the reported burning of a Quran by Florida pastor Terry Jones, who gained international attention last year when he announced that he was planning to burn a Quran, the U.N. source with knowledge of events said.

Jones is the pastor of the 60-member Dove World Outreach Center church near Gainesville. Last year, after an outcry followed his announcement of plans to burn a Quran on the ninth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he canceled them. Last month, however, he reportedly did burn Islam's holy book.

The church says on its website that it planned to put the Quran on trial on March 20, and, "if found guilty of causing murder, rape and terrorism, it will be executed!" Another post on the website, which uses an alternative spelling for the book, says "the Koran was found guilty" during the mock trial and "a copy was burned inside the building."

On Friday, Jones said in an e-mailed statement that the attack in Afghanistan shows that "the time has come to hold Islam accountable."

"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," he said.

Atta Mohammad Noor, the governor of Balkh province, said the attackers had used the protests against the burning "as a cover for this violence."

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai called the attacks "an act against Islam and Afghan values."

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the victims were only trying to help the Afghan people.

"In targeting them, the attackers have demonstrated an appalling disregard for what the U.N. and the entire international community are trying to do for the benefit of all Afghans," he said.

U.S. President Barack Obama also condemned the attack. "We stress the importance of calm and urge all parties to reject violence and resolve differences through dialogue," he said.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said he would not speculate on the motivation behind the attack, but added that it was "in no way justified, regardless of what the motivation was."

The Council on American Islamic Relations also released a statement condemning the attack. "Nothing can justify or excuse this attack," said the group, which describes itself as America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization.

CNN's Tim Lister and journalist Fazel Rashad contributed to this story.

'Five killed' in Afghanistan Koran-burning protest

April 2, 2011

by Nasrat Shoaib Nasrat Shoaib

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP)

Five people were killed during protests in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar on Saturday against the burning of a Koran in the US, officials said.

The demonstration came a day after seven UN staff were killed in an attack on their office in similar protests in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

The Kandahar protests began in the city centre and spread to other locations as police clashed with crowds marching towards the UN offices and provincial administration headquarters, witnesses said.

At least five people were killed and 45 others injured as more crowds entered the troubled city from the suburbs, a health ministry official in Kabul told AFP.

"The death toll is five, 45 others have been injured," Kargar Noorughli, a public health ministry spokesman told AFP in Kabul.

A doctor in Kandahar city's main Mirwais hospital earlier said four people had died. "Thirty-two people suffering from bullet injuries and wounds caused by rocks have been admitted," said Abdul Qayoum Pukhla, a senior doctor at the hospital.

Kandahar is the spiritual heartland of the Taliban, who have fought an insurgency against President Hamid Karzai's government in Kabul and its Western allies since they were ousted by a US-led invasion in 2001.

"Death to America" and "Death to Karzai" chanted the demonstrators. "They have insulted our Koran," shouted one.

An AFP reporter saw two unidentified bodies being removed by demonstrators in Chawk Saheedan, a central location where the protests started.

"I just saw two dead bodies being carried by some of the demonstrators. They said they were from the demonstration," he said. The men did not provide further details, the reporter said.

Smoke was rising from different parts of the city as protesters burned cars and tyres, the reporter added.

"Another big crowd is coming from the eastern edges of the city. Heavy gunshots are still being heard."

Zalmai Ayoubi, a spokesman for the provincial administration told AFP that "destructive elements have entered the crowds and are trying to turn it violent."

The spokesman said all those killed and injured were from the crowds. He said several cars, a large bus and a girls' school had been set ablaze by the protesters.

Police were preventing people from moving around the city.

Protesters mounting a similar demonstration Friday in Mazar-i-Sharif against the burning of a Koran at a church in Florida stormed a UN compound and killed seven staff, the worst attack on the world body in the country since the 2001 invasion.

6 dead in Afghanistan after report of U.S. Quran burning

By the CNN Wire Staff

April 2, 2011 4:50 a.m. EDT

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) --

Protesters attack the U.N. compound in Mazar-i-Sharif on April 1

 Dozens are injured in a deadly protest in Kandahar province.

Protesters are calling for the death of a pastor whose church reportedly burned a Quran Florida.

Pastor Terry Jones' church website says a copy of the Quran was burned.

 The protest follows an attack on a U.N. compound that killed 12 people.

Six people were killed and 46 were injured when a protest over a Quran burning at a U.S. church turned violent in Afghanistan's Kandahar province Saturday morning, a provincial spokesman said.

"More than 100 people were participated in this demonstration and the protesters were also condemning burning of Quran and chanting death to U.S. pastor," said Zalmai Ayoubi, spokesman for the governor of Kandahar province.

The demonstration started peacefully, but protesters turned violent, setting fire to a school and vehicles in Kandahar city, Ayoubi said.

Pastor Terry Jones sparked international controversy last year when his Gainesville, Florida, church planned "International Burn a Quran Day" on the ninth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Jones' church did not host a Quran burning on that day, but the Dove World Outreach Center's website announced an "International Judge the Koran Day" set for last month.

Another post on the site's blog showed an image of a burning book and read, "The event is over, the Koran was found guilty and a copy was burned inside the building."

On Friday, 12 people were killed in an attack on a U.N. compound in northern Afghanistan that followed a demonstration against the burning of the Quran.

The fatalities comprised seven U.N. workers and five demonstrators, officials said.

Another 24 people were wounded, said Abdul Rauof Taj, security director of Balkh province.

Lal Mohammad Ahmadzai, a spokesman for the police in Mazar-e-Sharif, told reporters that a number of suspects "who might be the main organizers" had been arrested.

U.N. Peacekeeping Director Alain Le Roy said the seven U.N. fatalities were international staffers -- three civilians and four international security guards. No Afghan U.N. staff members were among the dead, he said.

"I understand there were hundreds, if not thousands, of demonstrators. Some of them were clearly armed and they stormed into the building," Le Roy said.

He said the security guards tried their best to halt the demonstrators' advance, but were overwhelmed.

Le Roy said it was not clear that the United Nations was the target. "It happened to be the U.N. because the U.N. is on the ground."

Five demonstrators were killed in the violence; one person's throat was cut, he said.

A U.N .source said the dead included four Nepalese security guards as well as U.N. workers from Norway, Sweden and Romania. The source said the attack followed a demonstration against the reported burning of the Quran.

The U.N. Security Council met Friday and issued a statement condemning the attack, which occurred at the operations center of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

Haji Sakhi Mohammad, a businessman in Mazar-e-Sharif, said that the incident began after Friday prayers, when many people joined a protest against the burning of the Quran. People calling "Death to America" marched to the U.N. compound and broke in, he said. Gunfire broke out, and "I saw protesters shot to death," he said

A student in Mazar-e-Sharif said he and his friends joined the protesters, who numbered in the hundreds. "When we reached the UNAMA office, we came under gunfire by Afghan security guards. Protesters became angry and stormed the building."

The student said some of the protesters found several loaded AK-47s and used them to kill security guards and other people inside the building.

CNN's Matiullah Mati contributed to this report.

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