A dozen die in Afghanistan as fury erupts over Koran burning

The action by an American fundamentalist Christian church leads to protests and killings

At least a dozen people were killed in Afghanistan yesterday as violence continued for a second day in protest at the burning of the Koran by an American fundamentalist Christian church. Nine died in Kandahar, and three in attempted suicide attacks in Kabul. The day before, Muslim protesters forced their way into a UN mission and killed seven foreign staff, beheading two of them.

The leader of the US church which burnt the Koran and triggered the violence said yesterday he felt he had nothing to apologise for. Terry Jones, a vehement homophobe who runs a furniture business as well as the curious and ill-attended Dove World Outreach Center in Florida, said: "I think it does prove that there is a radical element of Islam." He also revealed in an interview with ABC News the bizarre process his church went through before the burning.

Having threatened last year to burn the Koran, and then been talked out of it by President Barack Obama, the church decided last month to put the Islamic holy book on trial. With Jones acting as judge, and members of his church the jury, cases for the defence and prosecution were heard, and a verdict of guilty pronounced. There were various options for punishment, including burning, shredding and the Koran facing the firing squad. The people, as Jones called them, chose setting fire to a book which more than a billion people around the world revere, and a copy of the Koran was duly burnt in the church.

Yet the fuse that led from the match being lit in Florida to the inflaming of protesters in Afghanistan was long and slow. The burning happened on 20 March, and was little reported. Four days later, in an initiative that may well tell its own story, the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, condemned the Florida church's action. It then took a further week before the violence broke out.

It showed itself first in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, at a United Nations mission. It appears that people emerged from a mosque and were swiftly joined by several thousand others. Later in the afternoon, a small number of them attacked the UN guards with knives, took their guns and entered the compound. Four guards from Nepal and three other foreigners employed at the UN office were killed. They were named yesterday as Joakim Dungel, a 33-year-old Swede; Lt-Col Siri Skare, 53, a female pilot from Norway; and Filaret Motco, 43, a Romanian who worked in the UN's political section.

The government claimed insurgents had mingled with demonstrators and instigated the violence. A Taliban spokesman, speaking by phone from an undisclosed location, said: "The Taliban had nothing to do with this. It was a pure act of responsible Muslims. The foreigners brought the wrath of the Afghans on themselves by burning the Koran." Afghan authorities say they arrested more than 20 people, including an insurgent from Kapisa province, a hotbed of militancy, who they suspect was the ringleader of the assault. Four protesters also died in the attack.

Nine of yesterday's killings, the victims of which are not yet known, occurred in Kandahar, capital of the spiritual heartland of the Taliban. Hundreds of Afghans, carrying long sticks and holding copies of the Koran over their heads, marched through the city. The crackle of gunfire could be heard throughout the city, which was blanketed by thick black smoke.

Security forces shot in the air to disperse the crowd, said a spokesman for the provincial governor, adding that it was unclear how the five protesters were killed. Daud Ahsam, a doctor at Kandahar's Mirwais Hospital, said 53 people were also hurt. In the aftermath, shops and restaurants were shuttered, and routes leading into the city blocked by security forces.

Yesterday's other deaths happened at Camp Phoenix, a Nato base on the east side of Kabul used to train Afghan security forces. Two suicide bombers disguised as women arrived at the main gate at about 6.45am, opened fire, then detonated vests of explosives. A third attacker opened fire and was killed by Nato forces. The body of a fourth person, an Afghan man at the scene, has not been identified. Three Nato service members were injured.

An interior ministry spokesman, Zemeri Bashary, said yesterday that a delegation of high-ranking Afghan officials was being sent to the scene of Friday's attack to investigate what happened during the demonstration, in which seven vehicles, including a police vehicle, were burned.

The violence is the worst in Afghanistan for months, and comes as the country gears up for the first stage of a security handover to Afghan troops, and after the commander of US and Nato forces, General David Petraeus, delivered an optimistic assessment of progress in the war.

Suggested Topics
News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Sport
sport
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Banking - London - £550 - £650

£550 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Traded Credit Risk - Investmen...

Data Insight Manager - Marketing

£32000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based o...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux, Redhat, Solaris, SAN, Puppet

£55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: .NET Developer C#, WPF,BLL, MSMQ, SQL, GIT, SQ...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape