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UN staff killed by Afghan mob enraged over Florida Quran burning

At least 20 UN staff members were killed in northern Afghanistan when a protest over a Quran burning overseen by pastor Terry Jones turned into a violent mob.

Afghans shout anti- US slogans, behind a row of policemen, during a demonstration in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Friday, April 1.

Musadeq Sadeq/AP

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An Afghan mob apparently angry over a Quran burning in Florida set upon a United Nations compound Friday, killing as many as 20 employees and setting fire to several compound buildings.

The attack, which may be the deadliest assault on the UN in Afghanistan, grew out of a protest in response to news that US pastor Terry Jones oversaw a Quran burning on March 20. Mr. Jones drew worldwide criticism last year for threatening to burn Qurans on the anniversary of 9/11.

The UN is still assessing the scope of damage and determining the exact death toll at its offices in Mazir-e-Sharif, a typically quiet city in northern Afghanistan.

While the outburst of civilian violence aimed at the UN is rare, this attack seems to show that anger over the foreign presence in Afghanistan is coming to the surface.

“In general you can easily rally people around issues such as insulting the Koran and insulting the prophet," says Martine van Bijlert, codirector of the Afghanistan Analysts Network. "But other than that I think there is also an increasing tension and annoyance with the international presence and so a demonstration like that does get mixed up with more general suspicions about the intentions of the internationals.”

Today's violence came after two or three hours of protests over the Florida Quran burning, which was broadcast online. Demonstrators started throwing stones at the UN compound then attempted to climb its walls and attacked guards. In addition to as many as 20 UN workers being killed, at least four protestors died. The UN’s chief of mission in the city was injured but survived the attack.

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