KABUL, Afghanistan (AP)—Thousands of protesters angry over the burning of a Quran by a Florida pastor stormed a U.N. compound Friday in northern Afghanistan, killing at least 12 people, including eight foreigners. The desecration of the Muslim holy book fueled resentment against the West at a critical moment in the Afghan war.
The demonstration in Mazar-i-Sharif turned violent when some protesters grabbed weapons from the U.N. guards and opened fire, then mobbed buildings and set fires on the compound, officials said. Demonstrators also massed in Kabul and the western city of Herat.
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 Florida pastor had backed down but the church went through with the burning last month.
Munir Ahmad Farhad, a spokesman in Balkh province, said the protest in Mazar-i-Sharif 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 destruction.
A U.N. spokesman says the number of foreign dead in the attack against its compound in northern Afghanistan is seven.
Dan McNorton, a spokesman for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan in Kabul, said Friday that four foreign security guards and three other foreigners were killed. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said one of the dead was a Swede, 27-year-old U.N. worker Joakim Dungel.
Earlier, Afghan police said eight foreigners had died along with four Afghans protesters. Gen. Daud Daud, commander of Afghan National Police in several northern provinces, said the guards were from Nepal.
The nationality of the other two victims was not known.