The anti-Islam stunts of Terry Jones, the Pastor who shot to popularity last September for proposing to burn Qurans in the memory of the 9/11 attacks, has now put foreigners in Afghanistan at a risk of facing violence from a newer and larger quarter besides the terror elements of Taliban - the civilians.
Twelve days after Jones burned a copy of the Islam holy book, an angry mob of close to thousand people gathered Friday after prayers to retaliate against the insult.
The mob, seemingly instigated by preachers during the Friday prayers, attacked United Nations guards in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, a relatively peaceful region of the war-torn country, killing at least 20 personnel.
The Koran was set on fire at the Dove World Outreach Center, a small church in Florida, after a mock trial on March 20. Jones presided over the 'International Judge the Koran Day' event, after which one copy of the Muslim holy book was 'executed'.
Although the web video of the Quran burning barely made news in the United States, the news got large scale coverage in Pakistan and Afghanistan, according to a New York Times blog citing Britain's Channel 4 News.
Last week in Pakistan, State Department spokesman, Mark Toner, issued a condemnation of the Koran burning. It was also reported
that Pakistan's interior minister, Rehman Malik, said Pakistan has taken up the recent desecration of the Holy Koran by lunatic priest Terry Jones with Interpol.
While Afghan authorities have also reportedly sought the arrest of Terry Jones, the Friday violence targeted at U.N. staff signifies the beginning of a distressing phenomenon for foreigners in Afghanistan.
Foreigners committed to assisting in the rebuilding of Afghanistan have long accepted the possibility that they might die at the hands of warring parties, but this degree of violence from ordinary citizens is not something most of us factored into our decision to work here, Una Moore writes for UN Dispatch.
Tonight, the governor of Balkh province, of which Mazar-i-Sharif is the capital, is telling the international media that the men who sacked the UN compound were Taliban infiltrators. That's rubbish.
Local clerics drove around the city with megaphones yesterday, calling residents to protest the actions of a small group of attention-seeking, bigoted Americans. Then, during today's protest, someone announced that not just one, but hundreds of Korans had been burned in America. A throng of enraged men rushed the gates of the UN compound, determined to draw blood. Had the attackers been gunmen, they would likely have been killed before they could breach the compound, Moore added.
Taliban and pro-Taliban militants often target foreign workers and organizations in Afghanistan. Despite tightened security, the militants strike at will across the country even as foreign troops try to eradicate terror elements in military operations. As recent as Friday, US Department of Defense said in a statement, Afghan and coalition forces killed two armed insurgents and detained at least 10 others yesterday during clearing operations in the Imam Sahib district of Afghanistan's Kunduz province.
Meanwhile, condemning in the strongest possible terms the attack on the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan,
President Barack Obama said, The brave men and women of the United Nations, including the Afghan staff, undertake their work in support of the Afghan people. 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.
In his response to the Mazar-i-Sharif violence, Terry Jones has taken his signature tone by stating that Islam should be held accountable.
In regard to the riots that have just taken place in Afghanistan at the UN headquarters, the actions of breaking in, setting on fire, and killing of at least 10 individuals so far is highly unacceptable for the government of the United States.
We, at Stand Up America Now, find this a very tragic and criminal action. The United States government and the United Nations itself, must take immediate action. We must 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 time has come to hold Islam accountable, the Pastor wrote on the Dove World Outreach Center's website.