AFGHANISTAN - PAKISTAN
Mazar-i-Sharif, UN attacked: 20 dead. Links to the Florida Koran burning
United Nations complex in northern Afghanistan the target, in an area considered peaceful. The attack occurred during a protest against the act of the U.S. Pastor Terry Jones, who denies responsibility. Ban Ki-moon "outrageous and cowardly" gesture.
Kabul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - 20 people were killed, including foreign workers and UN staff, yesterday in an attack that took place in Mazar-i-Sharif, a city in northern Afghanistan against a United Nations complex. The assault occurred during a protest by local Muslims against the insane act - repeatedly condemned by Christians in Pakistan and India - of pastor Wayne Sapp, who last March 20 in Florida burned a Koran under the supervision the evangelical preacher Terry Jones. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, has described the attack as "outrageous and cowardly."
On Saturday at least five people have been killed in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, on a second day of violent protests over the burning of a Koran. Hundreds of people took part in the protest; gunfire was heard and cars were set on fire.
Yesterday at least eight foreigners died in the attack on the the UN complex in Mazar-i-Sharif, including four Nepalis. Three UN workers were killed, along with five demonstrators at least 20 wounded, but the toll is still provisional. Mixed with the crowd there were groups of people armed with pistols and rifles. Police have arrested 27 people.
This is the worst attack on a United Nations headquarters in Afghanistan and took place in a city considered to be relatively quiet. The governor of Balkh province Ata Mohammad Noor said that the fundamentalists have used the protest march as "coverage", thus sparking a battle that lasted several hours. The attack raised many doubts about safety in Mazar-i-Sharif, one of the "pilot cities" for an upcoming transfer of power to the Afghan national forces.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, on a mission to Nairobi (Kenya), condemned the attack on the UN position in Afghanistan, calling it an "indecent and cowardly” gesture. A UN spokesman confirmed the death of some UN employees but declined to provide clarification on the number and nationality. Despite the attack, he adds, the United Nations will remain in the country.
Meanwhile, controversy mounts around the U.S. Pastor Terry Jones, who with his mad gesture has sparked the ire of the Islamic community. In Pakistan in recent days there have been three attacks on Christian churches, which have also caused the deaths of two faithful. Catholic leaders in Pakistan have repeatedly wanted to distance themselves from the American evangelical preacher, stressing that "Christians are born in Pakistan and have no ties with the United States." Pastor Jones denies responsibility in the attack against the UN headquarters in Afghanistan, but there is a clear link between the burning of the Koran and the war launched by fundamentalists against Christians and objectives considered "close" to the West.