U.N. Workers Killed In Afghanistan During Protests Over Koran Burning

As I noted last week, Florida Pastor Terry Jones presided over a Koran burning earlier this month after promising not to do so back in September. The response across the Muslim world has been predictable, starting with a denunciation by the President of Pakistan and continuing today with deadly rioting in Afghanistan:

KABUL, Afghanistan — Thousands of demonstrators angered over the burning of a Koran in Florida mobbed offices of the United Nations in northern Afghanistan on Friday, overrunning the compound and killing at least seven foreign staff workers, according to Afghan officials.

There were conflicting reports on the total number of people killed and whether two of the victims had been beheaded. Five Afghans were also reported killed.

The incident began when thousands of protesters poured out of the Blue Mosque in Mazar-i-Sharif after Friday prayers and attacked the nearby headquarters of the United Nations, according to Lal Mohammad Ahmadzai, spokesman for Gen. Daoud Daoud, the Afghan National Police commander for northern Afghanistan.

After disarming or shooting the United Nations compound’s guards, the crowd surged inside. Mr. Ahmadzai said that eight of the foreign staff workers, whose nationalities were not known immediately, were killed by gunfire, and that two others were captured by the mob and beheaded. Other reports said that the operations center was burned down as well.

The governor of Balkh Province, Atta Mohammad Noor, said that seven United Nations employees were killed in all, five Nepali security guards and two European international staff, one of them a woman. He said earlier reports of beheadings were unfounded; all of the victims were shot.

The crowd, which he estimated at 20,000, overwhelmed police forces and the United Nations security guards, and the weapons they used in the attack may have been those they seized from the United Nations guards, he said. He claimed that some insurgents disguised as demonstrators had used the protest as a pretext to attack the United Nations.


Mr. Ahmadzai, the police spokesman, said the demonstrators were angry about the burning of the Koran at the church of Pastor Terry Jones on Mar. 20. Mr. Jones had caused an international uproar by threatening to burn the Koran last year on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, and demonstrations at the time led to deaths throughout Afghanistan, but on a small scale. Mr. Jones subsequently had publicly promised not to burn a Koran, but then presided over a mock trial and the burning of the Koran at his small fringe church in Gainesville, Fla.

Fran Ingram, an assistant at the Dove World Outreach Center, in Gainesville, Fla., said that the church had burned the Koran after a ceremony on March 20.

“We put the Koran on trial and we did burn it,” she said. Ms. Ingram said she and other church members were no more concerned about their safety than before the burning and the killings of the United Nations workers in Afghanistan. “We have a huge stack of death threats,” she said. “We take precautions. I have a handgun. A lot of us have concealed weapons permits. We’re a small church and we don’t have money to hire security.”

After news of the attack, Mr. Jones, released a statement expressing no regret for the Koran burning. He called the attack on the compound “a very tragic and criminal action” and called on the United States and the United Nations to take action. “The time has come to hold Islam accountable,” he said.

How about holding you responsible, Mr. Jones? You may not be responsible for these deaths, but our actions have done nothing but needlessly inflame passions. I hope you’re happy with yourself.


FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, Policing, Religion, , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Tega says:

    Why should the pastor be blamed? He was exercising his first amendment right to burn whatever book he sees fit. The blame should go to the barbarians who committed these killings, why do people always have to find an excuse for these people?

  2. MarkedMan says:

    Jones is, of course, a D-Bag. Or perhaps he is a semi-insane charlatan. But it is the lunatics in Afghanistan that are responsible for the deaths. On the other hand in the “part of the problem or part of the solution” equation, he certainly falls into the “problem” category.

  3. mantis says:

    What would Jesus burn?

  4. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    How about holding you responsible, Mr. Jones? You may not be responsible for these deaths, but our actions have done nothing but needlessly inflame passions. I hope you’re happy with yourself.

    And just where is the confemnation for the followers of the peaceful religion of Islam?

  5. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    Sorry, I meant “condemnation”.

  6. Galrahn says:


    You have this wrong. One cannot blame a pastor in Florida conducting legal free speech for the deaths of UN personnel in Afghanistan. This is 100% the fault of an insane, extremist view by those who will casually kill anyone in the name of their distortion of Islam.

    Excusing the extremists for any aspect of their murder by shifting accountability or responsibility of violence to someone else that might have offended them would not be an expression of wisdom by you.

    All that is revealed here is that those who we say we fight for in Afghanistan often represent exactly the kind of extremism that we are fighting against in Afghanistan. That’s a pretty serious problem that our own politicians have no answer to.`

  7. DMan says:

    It’s obvious to us in this country that the religious nuts running around burning Korans for attention are not representative of Americans or Christians, but its less obvious to Muslims in Afghanistan and Muslim countries that this is the case.

    In much the same way I suspect the religious nuts who resort to violence in response are not representative of Afghanis or Muslims, but many in this country seem unable to accept this. I’m not saying the acts are in any way equal, I’m just saying both sides would do well to recognize that these people are not representative of their countries or religions. Recognizing this would go a long way to stop the spread of their ideas.

  8. Ben says:

    Did any of you even read what Doug wrote. He didn’t absolve the murderers of anything. He specifically said that Jones is not responsible for the deaths. All he did is say that Jones “needlessly inflame[d] passions”, which is incontrovertibly true. Jones absolutely did have the right to do this. And Doug absolutely has the right to condemn Jones’s actions.

    Let’s put it this way. I have the right to walk up to a police officer and call him a disgusting f&$%ing pig and that I hopes some drug dealer takes him out. But is it a good idea? If he ends up assaulting me, are you telling me that no one is gonna say that I was a little bit in the wrong here, accomplished nothing, and that I shouldn’t have needlessly provoked him?

  9. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    Did any of you even read what Doug wrote. He didn’t absolve the murderers of anything.

    Yeah, I read it and I didn’t see where Doug condemned the vicious murderers for their needless violence that was totally out of proportion with the provocation.

  10. mantis says:

    Yeah, I read it and I didn’t see where Doug condemned the vicious murderers for their needless violence that was totally out of proportion with the provocation.

    That sort of thing pretty much goes without saying, at least to people with functioning brains.

  11. G.A.Phillips says:

    Gotta love them Muslims….till they chop off your dumbass head!!!!!

  12. Franklin says:

    Can’t they both be wrong?

  13. G.A.Phillips says:

    What would Jesus burn?

    A lot will find out…….

  14. G.A.Phillips says:

    Can’t they both be wrong?

    Yes, but blaming this fool for the actions of islamic true believers, that’s wrong too.

  15. When you needlessly provoke knowing what the result will be, you have to take at least partial responsibility when what you know will happen, does happen.

    The individuals in Afghanistan who killed those UN workers are directly responsible for their deaths — obviously. But Terry Jones is indirectly responsible for their deaths.

    I think it’s also important to note the fact that it’s not just this one incident that provoked such a violent reaction.The U.S. has been in Afghanistan for almost 10 years now, and hundreds of civilians have been killed by U.S. forces. We may see those deaths as unintended, but many Afghans don’t. And if many Afghans believe that Americans value Afghan lives cheaply, or more cheaply than American lives, who could blame them?

  16. James in LA says:

    He could have burned a bible along with it to show that notions of virtue do not exist in books but in the minds and hearts of actual people, as a gesture to inclusion. In this he fails the pastor test with flying colors.

    And to hold him responsible for what happens a world away is nonsensical.

  17. matt says:

    Patrick T. McGuire : Well it hasn’t even been 24 hours but I went ahead and spent 15 seconds on google to find this…


    I guess the only way to keep your irrational hatred for a third of the world is to avoid looking up anything about it that hasn’t been pre-approved by your hatekeepers..

    I blame the idiots involved in the murders and not the idiot that burned a book. Unfortunately I find it highly unlikely that any of the murderers will be charged and like other believers of primitive Abrahamic religions they will continue to believe they were acting in god’s will….

  18. Spanielboy says:

    Terry Jones has some responsibilities in this whole mess. During his public grandstanding, he was told that his actions would have reprocussions — even GEN Petraeus jumped into the fray to say, “Don’t do this.” Did Jones listen? He was warned of the causality of what he was about to do, and he wrapped himself up in his first amendment right and religious piety. The thing that gets me is that he was told there would be effects to his actions, and he continued to pilot his path to this scenario.

    This whole thing about Jones’ stupidity and this stupid action by the local Afghani folks is a “tit-for-tat” that will only escalate over time when other actors join the stage.

    As an evangelical, I disagree with the fundamentalist like Jones in how he carried out his plans. His goals were self-serving.

  19. Spanielboy says:

    Just as a follow up, I see Jones has responded to this attack in Afghanistan,

    In a statement, Mr. Jones demanded that the United States and United Nations take “immediate action” against Muslim nations in retaliation for the deaths. “The time has come to hold Islam accountable,” he said.

    He also called on the United Nations to act against “Muslim-dominated countries,” which he said “must alter the laws that govern their countries to allow for individual freedoms and rights, such as the right to worship, free speech and to move freely without fear of being attacked or killed.”

    Some members of the Dove World Outreach Center said they feared they would be attacked.

    “We have a huge stack of death threats,” Ms. Ingram said. “We take precautions. I have a handgun. A lot of us have concealed weapons permits. We’re a small church, and we don’t have money to hire security.”

    Before the March 20 service, Mr. Jones asked if the church’s Web site was streaming the event, according to the video. He was assured that it was. Mr. Jones then gave the “defense attorney” the opportunity to leave.

    “It is not that we burn the Koran with some type of vindictive motive,” Mr. Jones said. “We do not even burn it with great pleasure or any pleasure at all. We burn it because we feel a deep obligation to stay with the court system of America. The court system of America does not allow convicted criminals to go free. And that is why we feel obligated to do this.”

    NY Times article

    Just reading these paragraphs show the contradictory tone of his message: Christian righteousness with carrying weapons for defense, and freedom of speech but then acting as a judge on someone else’s beliefs to “not allow convicted criminals to go free”.