Protest over U.S. Quran burning turns deadly for UN in Afghanistan

At least eight UN staff members are among a dozen people to have been killed Friday in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

Reports say the death toll could be considerably higher.

More than 1,000 protesters took to the streets after Friday’s prayers to vent their anger over the burning of a Quran by a U.S. pastor.

A number of protesters overran the UN compound, toppled a guard tower and torched the compound. The twelve killed included United Nations staff members and guards. Two of those killed were beheaded according to Lal Mohammad Ahmadzai, a police spokesman for the northern region.

The UN says it is not in a position to say what countries those killed had come from. A media report in the country said slain UN personnel were from Norway, Romania, and Sweden.

Police fired warning shots above the crowd but it had no effect.

A Reuters correspondent reported long-standing anger over civilian casualties, heightened by the Quran burning, and the recent publication of gruesome photographs of the body of an unarmed Afghan teenager killed by U.S. soldiers, sparked the protests.

The UN confirmed the afternoon attack, saying it took place at its Mazar-i-Sharif operations centre.

UNAMA spokesperson Dan McNorton said the mission was working to ascertain all the facts and to take care of affected staff.

He said Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, and the highest-ranking UN official in the country, is heading to Mazar-i-Sharif to deal with the situation.

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