At least eleven people were killed, including some United Nations officials, today in Afghanistan, apparently in response to Florida pastor Terry Jones burning the Koran last month, Afghan police and U.N. officials said.
The deaths followed a protest march in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif today against the Koran burning last month in which Jones supervised while another pastor, Wayne Sapp, soaked the Koran in kerosene and burned it after finding it "guilty" in a mock trial.
Police told ABC News the protest started peacefully but took a violent turn after a radical leader told those gathered that multiple Korans had been burned. In a fury, the people marched on the nearby U.N. compound despite police firing AK-47s into the air in hopes of subduing them.
Police eventually turned their weapons on the protestors, killing at least four, police said, before they were overtaken and had their guns stolen. Using the police weapons, the protestors killed four U.N. guards from Nepal and then three foreign workers in the U.N. building -- a Norwegian, a Romanian and a Swede. An Afghan official said one man has been arrested for his role in allegedly masterminding the attack along with 19 others, according to a report by the Associated Press.
Despite an onslaught of attention Jones garnered when he initially made his threat to burn the Muslim holy book in September 2010 -- including a personal plea from President Barack Obama -- the actual burning of the Koran last month went relatively unnoticed in western media.
In a statement to reporters, Jones was unrepentant and called the U.S. government and the international community to respond to the killings.
"We... 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 statement said.
President Obama condemned the attack "in the strongest possible terms" in a statement.
"The brave men and women of the United Nations, including the Afghan staff, undertake their work in support of the Afghan people," Obama said. "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."
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon joined Obama in his condemnation of the attack today.
"This was an outrageous and cowardly attack against U.N. staff, which cannot be justified under any circumstances and I condemn it in the strongest possible terms," Ki-moon said from Kenya, where the U.N said he is making an official visit.
Terry Jones Cancelled Previous Burning in New York
Jones, a pastor from Gainesville, Fla., initially cancelled his plans for the book burning on the ninth anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks. The stunt, according to Jones, was a protest for the Muslim-backed community center that was to be built near the site of the September 11 attacks in New York.
During that incident, Gainesville's mayor told reporters Jones does not speak for the community.
"He's a really fringy character," said Pegeen Hanrahan, a two-term mayor who left office in May. "For every one person in Gainesville who thinks this is a good idea there are a thousand who just think it's ridiculous."
"He's a person who has a congregation that's exceedingly small, maybe 30 or 40 people -- 50 on a good day," Jacki Levine, managing editor of the Gainesville Sun newspaper, said in September. "He is not at all reflective of community he finds himself in."
Spokespersons for the U.S. State Department did not immediately return requests for comment on this report.