Inside the Massacre at Afghan Compound
By DION NISSENBAUM And MARIA ABI-HABIB
Wall Street Journal, April 4, 2011
Friday, thousands of people gathered in Mazar-e-Sharif's revered Blue Mosque. Speaker after speaker denounced the Quran-burning, which for Muslims is abhorrent because Islam teaches that the physical book is holy.
"Stand up against the enemies of the Quran with your pen," one of the men shouted from the podium, videos show. "Stand up against them with your voices. Stand up against them with weapons. It is everyone's right to stand up against them and make a jihad."
The protesters then surprised police by pouring into the street and marching toward the U.N. office, more than a mile away. At one point, according to videos reviewed by the Journal, the badly outnumbered police tried to use a six-foot wood beam to hold back the crowd. The protesters easily surged past.
Only about 60 police were deployed, and they appeared uncertain how to respond. Initial attempts to disperse the crowd by firing warning shots appeared only to inflame the demonstrators. The besieged U.N. staffers headed to two safe rooms intended to shield against intruders and bombs.
They phoned for help from the nearby military bases of German and Swedish forces, according to a person briefed on the situation. The U.S.-led military said the situation "escalated rapidly" and that a swift-reaction team didn't arrive until after rioters were gone.
Once demonstrators flooded the compound, a dozen Afghan police guards—the first line of defense—dropped their weapons, said Brig. Gen. Esmatullah Alizai, the provincial police chief. "They were surrounded and confused," he said.
Inside the compound, a small contingent of Nepalese Gurkha guards working for the U.N. faced a conundrum: They were under U.N. orders not to open fire on demonstrators. The videos show one guard feebly trying to wave an elderly demonstrator out of the compound.
Nearby, videos show, demonstrators used bent metal rods to smash a row of white U.N. SUVs.
Among those attacking the U.N. vehicles was a young religious student from a small village not far from the city. The student said in an interview that he and one of his friends found a propane tank that they shoved under one vehicle and set off an explosion.
Nearby, the student said, two Afghan policemen were hiding with a foreigner behind a tanker. When one of the officers shot and injured a young demonstrator, the student said he saw a chance to disarm him.
"Grab his weapon," the student said he shouted to his friend, who wrestled a Kalashnikov assault rifle and used it to shoot the unarmed foreigner.
Inside the building, other attackers targeted one of the safe rooms. The door proved little protection against the mob. As intruders penetrated the safe room, Pavel Ershov, a Russian diplomat who speaks fluent Dari sought to protect three staff members by distracting the assailants, the U.N.'s Mr. de Mistura said.
"Are you Muslim?" the assailants asked Mr. Ershov, according to one diplomat briefed on the attack. Mr. Ershov lied and said he was, the U.N. said. The assailants tested him by asking him to recite the traditional profession of belief in Islam, which begins, "There is no God but Allah."
When he successfully completed the test, his life was spared. Still, he was dragged into the street and beaten badly, according to a local shopkeeper who said he participated in the assault.
The attackers searched the darkened bunker with a lamp and discovered Lt. Col. Siri Skare, a 53-year-old Norwegian military attaché—the former fighter pilot—seconded to the U.N., along with Joakim Dungel, a 33-year-old Swede who had been working in the human-rights office for less than two months, and Filaret Motco, a 43-year-old Romanian who headed the mission's political section.
As Lt. Col. Skare attempted to flee the bunker, she was intercepted by the Afghan demonstrators who had set the car on fire. She was shot with the rifle commandeered from the police officer, one of the men said. Lt. Col. Skare died of her wounds. Messrs. Dungel and Motco were killed elsewhere.
Four Afghans—men also described as "insurgents" by Gen. Alizai, the police official—were also killed. Video footage of demonstrators leaving the U.N. compound shows two men carrying Kalashnikovs and one showing off a large, blood-spattered knife.
As the attackers focused on the four U.N. workers who had been hiding in the first safe room, diplomats said, three or four others, including the German newcomer, were sheltered in a safe room in another building. They survived.
[Yaroslav Trofimov, Zamir Saar, Michael Allen and Betsy McKay contributed to this article.]
UN staff were hunted down and slaughtered in Afghanistan
By Dean Nelson, South Asia Editor
The Telegraph, April 4, 2011
Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations envoy to Afghanistan, gave the shocking details about the actions of the mob, which was protesting at the burning of a Koran overseen by the American pastor Terry Jones.
Mr de Mistura blamed Mr Jones for provoking the violence which led to the killing of seven UN employees on Friday, and which spread throughout Afghanistan over the weekend. Twenty-two people have lost their lives since protests erupted in Mazar-i-Sharif on Friday, including two policemen who were killed in clashes in Kandahar on Sunday.
Speaking on his return to Kabul from Mazar-i-Sharif, Mr de Mistura said he had been shocked by what he had seen. His staff had been shot and stabbed to death as they tried to flee in terror through a dark building from a marauding mob.
They had retreated to a bunker after some of the 3,000 protesters overran the compound, killing four of six Gurkha guards. He believed the killings had been carried out by up to 15 insurgents carrying handguns, who had infiltrated the mob.
The UN staff were hiding in complete darkness in the bunker when the protesters found them and forced open the door.
The head of mission, Pavel Ershov, spoke to the attackers in Dari, a local language, to distract them from his staff hiding behind him. They had attacked him, but stopped after he told them he was a Muslim, Mr de Mistura said.
"One was pulled out alive because he pretended to be a Muslim. He spoke the language and tried to draw their attention on himself. For a moment, he hoped that they would think there was nobody else there," he said.
The attackers shone a torch inside the bunker to find the other foreign UN staff, pulled them out one by one and killed them, he said. They shot dead three of the staff, and then slit the throat of one of them. "They were killed when they were running out of the bunker," he said.
President Barack Obama condemned Mr Jones's actions, but said they did not justify the attacks. The desecration of the Koran was "an act of extreme intolerance and bigotry", but "no religion tolerates the slaughter and beheading of innocent people, and there is no justification for such a dishonourable and deplorable act," he said.
There were fresh protests throughout the country in Jalalabad, Parwan and Kandahar yesterday, where two police officers were killed and 20 people were injured. On Saturday nine people were killed and 80 injured in gun-battles following protests in the city.
A Taliban statement accused Afghan police of shooting unarmed protesters.
Muslims in Kerala, India, burning textbooks that they don't like (in 2008):
A book burning in Pakistan in 2008:
Muslims burning Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses in Bradford, England, 1989:
Another photo from the Bradford book burning in 1989 (from this WSJ article):