Note** deaths are actually 10 or 13, not 7 like this article states.
http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/world/Afghanistan+mission+reeling+after+kills+staffers/4545995/story.htmlUNITED UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations said Friday it was in Afghanistan to stay, but the attack on its compound in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif has thrown the entire UN mission there into deep crisis.
The loss of seven international staffers — some reports said two were beheaded — marks the worst attack the world body has suffered in the country. Security will have to be reviewed despite an overhaul in the wake of an attack just 18 months ago that left five UN staffers dead in Kabul, the capital.
The attack could also see UN activities retrenched as new precautions are introduced to protect staffers.
"These are civilian people, unarmed, here to do human rights work, here to support peace in Afghanistan," Kieran Dwyer, a spokesman for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, told the BBC. "We were not prepared for this kind of situation. We were there to protect them."
But to many, it's unclear why the UN was so unprepared.
Four UN-paid Nepalese Gurkha guards were among the dead, overwhelmed by the throng that burst into the compound.
The attackers overwhelmed security guards, burned parts of the compound and climbed up blast walls to topple a guard tower, Reuters reported. Five protesters were also killed and about 20 wounded, some after trying to take weapons off UN security guards.
"The insurgents have taken advantage of the situation to attack the UN compound," said Gov. Ata Mohammad Noor.
He told a news conference that many in the crowd of protesters had been carrying guns. Some 27 people have already been detained over the attack, he added.
Dwyer said UN staff guards were both inside and outside the facility, but insisted that the UN relied for its "first line of security" on the Afghan authorities, comprising the police and the Afghan National Army.
"We need to find out what actually happened," Dwyer said, without laying blame. But he added that "it really does show how difficult it can be for civilian workers" in Afghanistan.
In New York, UN spokesman Farhan Haq said there had been "heightened security measures" in place, but declined to give details.
The 2009 attack saw three Taliban gunmen enter a UN guest house. Besides the UN staffers, two Afghan security personnel and an Afghan civilian also died, as well as the gunmen.
After a review, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on the UN General Assembly to approve at least $75 million to strengthen security and safety for UN staff in Afghanistan.
Some $50 million of that was to improve screening and to protect access to vulnerable UN offices.
But within the country, U.S. and NATO-led security forces have been keen to offer increasing responsibility for security to the Afghans in preparation for an eventual total handover.
Only last month, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was hailing the "gains we are seeing across the country" in the ability of the Afghan security forces, working with coalition forces, to make Afghanistan safe.
"As a result, commerce has grown and distant provinces are increasingly connected to major marketplaces," Gates said at a joint news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai March 7 in Kabul.
He declared progress was such that the United States "will be well positioned to begin drawing down some U.S. and coalition forces this July."
Ironically, Mazar-e-Sharif has until now been considered one of Afghanistan's more peaceable cities, and a site chosen for one of the first formal handovers of security to the Afghans in July. Some in authority were speculating Friday that such a handover may now be in question.
Afghan authorities denied any of the victims had been beheaded in Friday's attack. Norway identified the only woman among the dead as one of its nationals, 53-year-old Lt.-Col. Siri Skare. Sweden confirmed one of its nationals also died, while the UN said another European victim was from Romania. Besides UN staffers, five Afghan protesters died.
The Florida pastor whose recent Koran burning allegedly provoked Friday's violence says he will, later this month, protest outside the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michigan, where a third of the population is of Arab descent.
Pastor Terry Jones oversaw the burning of a Koran at his poorly attended Gainesville church March 20 a little more than six months after he backed off a pledge to commit the act last Sept. 11, the ninth anniversary of the 2001 attacks.
Media focus worldwide had been huge last fall as U.S. President Barack Obama, the U.S. State Department, the FBI, the Pentagon and an array of interfaith groups urged the pastor, whose congregation amounts to a little more than 50 followers, to avoid inflaming the Muslim world.
Few in the West noticed when Jones actually committed the act almost two weeks ago following a mock trial of a Koran that was soaking in kerosene throughout the fake proceeding. As some 30 people looked on, the pastor's colleague, Wayne Sapp, lit the book using a barbecue lighter, and it reportedly burned for about 10 minutes.
Halfway around the world, however, the story of the burning grew and grew, to the point where, during Friday prayers in the Blue Mosque in Mazar-e-Sharif, three mullahs called for protests to insist the United States arrest Jones.
While in Kabul around 200 protesters marched on the U.S. embassy and merely shouted, in Mazar-e-Sharif thousands poured out of the Blue Mosque and made their way to the nearby UN compound. It's believed this was the only symbol of Western presence they could easily reach. Authorities estimated the crowd eventually numbered 20,000. Observers report that the situation turned violent after one local religious leader stood up and declared that "hundreds" of Korans — not just one — had been burned.
Reached by the BBC, Jones said he did not feel guilty over the deaths in Mazar. "We are not responsible for their actions," he declared when asked about the attack.
Read more: http://www.canada.com/Afghanistan+mission+reeling+after+kills+seven+staffers/4545995/story.html#ixzz1IKbzURjy