KABUL, April 1: Afghan protesters angered by the desecration of Holy Quran by a US pastor killed up to 20 UN staff, beheading two foreigners, when they overran a compound in a normally peaceful northern city on Friday in the worst ever attack on the UN in Afghanistan.
eight foreigners were among the dead after attackers took out security guards, burned parts of the compound and toppled a guard tower, said Lal Mohammad Ahmadzai, a police spokesman for the northern region.
Five protesters were also killed and around 20 wounded.
The governor of Balkh province said that insurgents had used the march as cover to attack the compound, in a battle that raged for several hours and raises serious questions about plans to make the city a pilot for security transfer to national forces.
“The insurgents have taken advantage of the situation to attack the UN compound,” said Governor Ata Mohammad Noor.
He told a news conference that many in the crowd of protesters had been carrying guns. Some 27 people had been detained over the attack, he added.
Afghan police and army, who the United Nations rely on for their first line of defence, were apparently unable to control the crowd. German troops are also
stationed in Balkh, and the Nato-led coalition said they had received a request for help.
“Eight foreigners were killed, and two were beheaded,” said Mr Ahmadzai.
A United Nations spokesman confirmed that employees had been killed but declined to comment on number of dead or their nationalities. He said the attack would not push the United Nations out of Afghanistan.
“We need to secure our colleagues in Mazar-i-Sharif. It’s not a question of us pulling out. The UN is here to stay,” said spokesman Kieran Dwyer.
Staffan De Mistura, the top UN diplomat in Afghanistan, has flown to Mazar-i-Sharif to handle the situation personally.
The Russian chief of the mission in the city, Pavel Yershov, was injured in the attack but is now in hospital, Russian state television said, quoting an embassy spokesman.
Russia called on the Afghan government and international forces to “take all necessary measures” to protect
UN workers in a statement issued by the foreign ministry.
Romania’s foreign ministry said preliminary information suggested a Romanian citizen was among the dead, and condemned the attack.
US President Barack Obama and Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen also condemned the attack.
If the death toll is correct, it would make it the deadliest attack on the United Nations in Afghanistan, and one of the worst on the organisation for years.—Reuters
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