UN says deadly Afghan attack won't deter its activities
KABUL(PAN): The United Nations has vowed not to derail its work in Afghanistan despite an attack on its office in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif that left 10 foreign workers of the world's body dead amid fresh violent protests over the Quran burning incident in the US.
The attack in Balkh on Friday during a demonstration against the burning was followed by demonstrations in southern Kandahar that left 10 people dead, raising fresh concerns over plans by President Hamid Karzai and the international coalition to hand control of security in Mazar-i-Sharif, along with six more areas, to Afghan forces from July 1.
Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) Staffan de Mistura on Saturday told a press conference in Kabul that the organisation's work in Afghanistan would not be affected, but said the remaining foreign staff from the compound, which was set ablaze in the mob attack, would be temporarily moved to Kabul until a secure office was established in Mazar-i-Sharif.
"This is not an evacuation. We will watch and monitor the situation everywhere in the country ….depending on the circumstances," he said.
Criticising police for failing to prevent the violence, De Mistura blamed insurgents from outside Mazar-i-Sharif for the deadly attack claimed by the Taliban.
He said armed rebels had infiltrated street protests. "Some insurgents, probably between seven and 15... had infiltrated the demonstration," de Mistura told reporters late Saturday in the Afghan capital Kabul.
De Mistura was also critical of authorities, saying police were taken by surprise when violence broke out.
"It's clear that if the Afghan police had had a cordon of separation between the demonstration and the building, the building would not have been attacked," he said.
Between 2,000 and 3,000 demonstrators had taken to the streets after the traditional Friday prayers.
"The police were not able to stop them and the (Nepalese) Gurkhas did not shoot at them -- the UN don't shoot at crowds, even if they are threatening -- and therefore they took over," he said.
De Mistura said the three Europeans were shot after fleeing to a secure room within the UN compound, which the attackers succeeded in entering.
"Those who actually killed my colleagues were the infiltrators. They had handguns... and my colleagues were killed by handguns, all three of them. So I assume it was the infiltrators," he said.One had his throat cut with a knife after being shot, he added.
The head of the UN office, a Russian national, survived the attack by pretending to be Muslim and speaking the local language Dari.
Swedennamed one of the civilians killed as 33-year-old Joakim Dungel. Norway said Lieutenant Colonel Siri Skare, a 53-year-old female pilot, was killed, while diplomats said the third European killed was a Romanian.
While four guards died, two more escaped, as did two Afghan UN workers.
De Mistura said seven or eight people had been arrested over the attack, and some of them appeared to be rebels from elsewhere.
The Kandahar protests on Saturday began in the centre of the city and spread as police clashed with crowds marching towards the UN offices and provincial administration headquarters, witnesses said.
As well as condemning the Quran-burning, Obama also reiterated his condemnation of the "outrageous" attacks by protesters as "an affront to human decency and dignity."
De Mistura called the Quran burning an "insane and totally despicable gesture".
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