My Two Cents: Religion is silly. End Two Cents.
*Taken from Yahoo News.
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.
It turned violent when some protesters seized the guards’ weapons and started shooting, then the crowds stormed the building, sending plumes of black smoke into the air. One protester, Ahmad Gul, a 32-year-old teacher in the city, said Afghan security forces at the scene killed and wounded protesters.
Gen. Daud Daud, commander of Afghan National Police in several northern provinces, said those killed included five Nepalese guards who were working for the U.N. and two other foreigners employed at the complex. He said one other foreigner was wounded. Later, Rawof Taj, deputy police chief in Balkh province, said the injured individual had died. Taj said 25 people had been arrested.
The nationalities of the other three foreigners was not known.
Interior Ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashary said four protesters also were killed and nearly two dozen civilians were wounded.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said P.O. Yershov, a Russian citizen who was employed at the U.N. office, was injured in an attack.
Dan McNorton, a spokesman for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, confirmed that people working for the U.N. had died in an attack on the operation center, but he could not provide details.
“The situation is still confusing and we are currently working to ascertain all the facts and take care of all our staff,” he said from his office in Kabul.
Staffan de Mistura, the top U.N. official in Afghanistan, had left Kabul for Mazar-i-Sharif to personally handle the situation, he said.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is in Nairobi, said it was “a cowardly attack that cannot be justified under any circumstances.”
Deputy U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said “a fairly substantial number” of U.N. staff and guards had been killed, but he gave no figure. “Among the casualties we believe that some of them were guards trying to protect the other staff,” he said.
President Barack Obama strongly condemned the attack and stressed the importance of work of the U.N. staff in Afghanistan.
“Their work is essential to building a stronger Afghanistan for the benefit of all its citizens. We stress the importance of calm and urge all parties to reject violence and resolve differences through dialogue,” Obama said.
Mohammad Azim, a businessman in Mazer-i-Sharif, said that clerics with loudspeakers drove around the city in two cars on Thursday to invite residents to the protest. After Friday prayers at a large blue mosque in the city center, clerics again called on worshippers to attend a peaceful protest.
When Abdul Karim, a police officer in Mazar-i-Sharif, went inside the compound to investigate, 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 fatal head wound died on a stairway to the basement of the compound, which was littered with broken glass and bullet casings. A man who was killed inside a room had wounds to his face and body, Karim said.
Several hundred people also protested the Quran burning at several sites in Herat, a city in western Afghanistan. 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 also gathered at a traffic circle near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. Police directed traffic around the demonstration in the capital. One protester carried a sign that said: “We want these bloody bastard Americans with all their forces to leave Afghanistan.”
The Gainesville, Florida 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 his act had lead 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.”
Last week, Afghan President Hamid Karzai issued a statement calling the burning a “crime against a religion.” He denounced it as a “disrespectful and abhorrent act” and called on the U.S. and the United Nations to bring to justice those who burned the holy book and issue a response to Muslims around the world.