U.N. pulls staff from Afghan office after riots over Koran burning

Afghan demonstrators shout anti-American slogans during a protest against Koran desecration in Kunduz on Feb. 25.

REPORTING FROM KABUL, AFGHANISTAN — The United Nations said Monday it was pulling international staff out of a regional office in northern Afghanistan after rioters tried to overrun the compound last week.

The U.N. pullback from Kunduz province, described as temporary, was the latest example of the impact of violence in the wake of a Koran-burning incident last week on Western operations in Afghanistan.

Western advisers — both NATO service members and civilians — were pulled back from Afghan government ministries after two American military officers were killed by an Afghan assailant in an ostensibly secure area of the Interior Ministry on Saturday. A ministry employee was being sought in the killings.

The attack on the U.N.’s compound in Kunduz took place after protests had been raging for days over copies of the Koran being burned in the trash incinerator at a U.S. base north of Kabul. The incident is under investigation; American officials have repeatedly apologized and said any disrespectful treatment of the Muslim holy book was accidental.

On Sunday, a day after the U.N. compound in Kunduz was attacked by demonstrators, protesters took aim at a U.S. base in another part of the province, hurling grenades and injuring seven U.S. troops.

The U.N. mission in Afghanistan said it would continue to provide services in the Kunduz region and said its staff would continue to stand by Afghans “as long as the people of Afghanistan want them.”

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Photo: Afghan demonstrators shout anti-American slogans during a protest against Koran desecration in Kunduz on Saturday. Credit: Gulrahim / AFP / Getty Images

 
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