Tuesday, April 5, 2011

US Soldiers Killing Civilians

Friday, April 1, 2011

Statement attributable to the Secretary-General

Statement attributable to the Secretary-General 
concerning the attack against the UNAMA compound in Mazar-i-Sharif

1 April 2011 - I condemn in the strongest terms the outrageous and cowardly attack against the United Nations office in Mazar-i-Sharif in Afghanistan. Our reports are still preliminary, but it appears that three United Nations international staff as well as four international security officers were killed in the attack. My Special Representative, Staffan de Mistura, has travelled to Mazar-i-Sharif and is personally overseeing the investigation.

Those who lost their lives in today’s attack were dedicated to the cause of peace in Afghanistan and to a better life for all Afghans. These brave men and women were working in the best tradition of the United Nations and gave their lives in the service of humanity.

I express my sincere condolences to the families and colleagues of those who were lost and call on the Afghan Government to thoroughly investigate this incident and bring its perpetrators to justice.

Nairobi/New York; 1 April 2011

UN staff killed during protest in northern Afghanistan

At least seven foreign UN workers have been killed after protesters stormed a UN compound in the Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif, officials say.

The compound was set alight as hundreds protested over the burning of the Koran in a US church last month. Several demonstrators were killed by guards.

Witnesses said the protest began peacefully but suddenly turned violent.

A local police spokesman told the BBC the city was now under control and a number of people had been arrested.

Dan McNorton, spokesman for the UN mission in Afghanistan, said: "Three international Unama (United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan) staff members were killed, and four international armed security guards were killed."

Initial reports said eight foreign UN workers had died.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt later confirmed that one of the dead was a Swede, 27-year-old UN worker Joakim Dungel.

The Norwegian defence ministry said another of those killed was Lt Col Siri Skare, a 53-year-old female pilot. The other foreign victims are believed to be a Romanian and four Nepalese guards.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described it as "an outrageous and cowardly attack".

Continue reading the main story

Bilal Sarwary
BBC News
Mazar-e Sharif is one of Afghanistan's largest cities - as well as one of its safest. Just last week, thousands peacefully celebrated the Persian new year.

The city is on a list of areas to be handed to full Afghan security control later this year. The attack on the UN compound raises serious questions about that plan.

A state of emergency has now been declared in the city, Afghan intelligence sources told the BBC. All roads in and out of Mazar have been blocked and cars are being checked. Special army and police units have been deployed to prevent further unrest.

The authorities are well aware of the dangers of protests spreading. In 2006, anger at cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper swept across Afghanistan. Dozens were killed or injured.

US President Barack Obama also condemned the attack "in the strongest possible terms", saying the work of the UN "is essential to building a stronger Afghanistan".

The top UN representative in Afghanistan, Staffan De Mistura, has flown to the area to handle the matter.

Weapons seized
Witnesses said a crowd of several hundred staged a protest outside the Blue Mosque in the city after Friday prayers.

The crowds moved to outside the UN compound, where a small group broke away.

Munir Ahmad Farhad, a spokesman for Balkh province, said the group seized weapons from the guards and opened fire before storming the building.

Local police spokesman Lal Mohammad Ahmadzai told the BBC the attackers had used guns and knives.

He also told reporters that two of the dead UN staff were beheaded.

However, police Gen Abdul Rafu Taj said that "according to the initial reports... none were beheaded". He said they were shot in the head.

A number of suspected attackers have been arrested.

Officials have declared an emergency in the city - major roads in and out have been blocked.

'Hunted down'
Kieran Dwyer, director of communications for the UN mission in Afghanistan, said the UN workers had been trapped inside the compound and "hunted down" in what was an "overwhelming situation".

"These are civilian people, unarmed, here to do human rights work, to work for peace in Afghanistan - they were not prepared for this situation," he told the BBC.

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Farhan Haq of the UN said the organisation was still trying to establish the circumstances on the ground
Mr Dwyer said it was too early to tell how the attack happened or why the UN was targeted, but that the organisation would now take extra security measures.

But he added: "The UN is here to stay. We're here to work with the people to help them achieve peace, and this sort of thing just highlights how important that is."

On 20 March, Pastor Wayne Sapp set light to a copy of the Koran at a church in Florida.

The burning took place under the supervision of Terry Jones, another US pastor who last year drew condemnation over his aborted plan to burn copies of the Koran on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Protests were held in several other Afghan cities on Friday - which demonstrators in Herat had called a "day of anger", Afghanistan's Noor TV channel reports.

The BBC's Paul Wood in Kabul says Mazar-e Sharif is known to be a relatively peaceful part of the country, but that the Florida incident will raise questions of whether the city will be able to make the transition from foreign to Afghan security control later this year.

Our correspondent says that in a deeply religiously conservative country such as Afghanistan, that act has the power to inflame passions in otherwise peaceful areas.

Mr Jones told the BBC he was not responsible for the actions of the protesters.