At least seven people died after an enraged group of demonstrators attacked a United Nation's compound in Afghanistan's capital city of Kabul on Friday. The mob-protesting a Quran-burning in March by Florida pastor Terry Jones-turned violent after Friday prayers at a nearby mosque. Early reports indicated the dead included eight foreigners working at the compound.
Jones, leader of Dove World Outreach Center-a small, independent church in Gainesville, Fla.-incited worldwide outrage after threatening to burn a Quran in a public event in November. Jones initially canceled the event, but burned the Islamic book after a five-hour mock trial of the Quran at his church in March.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai released a statement last week condemning the Quran-burning as "a crime against religion" and calling on the United States and the UN to punish the participants. Karzai didn't immediately issue a statement about the crimes against UN workers on Friday.
Mohammad Aziz, an Afghan businessman, told the Associated Press that clerics with loudspeakers drove around in cars on Thursday, urging residents to come to the protest. Aziz said the clerics announced the demonstration would be peaceful.
But peace quickly shattered as the crowd that descended on the UN compound chanted "Death to America," grabbed weapons from UN guards, and opened fire. Officials reported the crowd also overtook buildings and set fires.
In a separate protest in the western city of Herat, hundreds of demonstrators burned an American flag and chanted "Death to the U.S." At a traffic circle near the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, one protester carried a sign reading: "We want these bloody bastard Americans with all their forces to leave Afghanistan."
UN officials in Kabul didn't immediately report any Americans wounded or killed in the attacks. An Afghan police official said the dead included five Nepalese security guards.
From his office in Florida, Jones issued a statement on Friday condemning the attacks, and calling on the United States and the UN 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." The statement didn't acknowledge Jones' Quran-burning event in March, or address criticism from many-including Christians-who opposed the deeply provocative act.