KABUL — An angry mob killed at least seven foreigners in northern Afghanistan and set fire to a United Nations compound, as a protest over a Koran burning in Florida swelled into chaotic violence Friday, according to Afghan and Western officials.
The attack in Mazar-e Sharif, normally a bastion of calm, swelled out of a midday gathering called to denounce the actions of Terry Jones, a preacher in Gainesville, Fla., who burned the Islamic holy book on a grill last month. The Taliban had issued a statement blaming “American Rules” for Jones’s “crime.’’
At least four protesters also were reported killed during the attack on the U.N. office.
President Obama condemned Friday’s killings “in the strongest possible terms” and urged calm and dialogue. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the attack “an outrageous and cowardly act.’’ Neither statement mentioned the burning of the Koran.
In September, Jones had stepped back from plans to burn the Koran, which he has deemed responsible for terrorist activities, after public criticism from U.S. faith leaders and warnings from the Obama administration. In contrast, the Koran burning that Jones carried out March 20 had attracted little attention, and the Obama administration appeared to have been taken by surprise by the issue’s sudden reemergence.