April 1, 2011 / 2:35 PM / in 7 years

At least 8 U.N. staff killed in north Afghan city - police

MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan (Reuters) - At least eight foreign U.N. workers were killed, two of them beheaded, on Friday in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif after a demonstration against the burning of Korans by a U.S. preacher, a regional police spokesman said.

“Eight foreigners were killed and two were beheaded,” said Lal Mohammad Ahmadzai, a police spokesman for the northern region.

Over a thousand protesters had flooded into the streets of the normally peaceful city after Friday prayers, and after two or three hours violence broke out.

A small group attacked the UN compound, throwing stones and climbing on blast barriers to try and enter.

A police source, who declined to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the media, said protesters had stormed into the compound where they attacked the victims.

The chief of the mission in the city was wounded but survived, and the dead included employees of Norwegian, Romanian and Swedish nationalities, he added.

A United Nations spokesman confirmed that there had been deaths of personnel at the mission in Mazar-i-Sharif but declined to give further details, saying the situation on the ground was still confusing.

Staffan De Mistura, the top UN representative in Afghanistan, was heading to Mazar-i-Sharif to handle the matter personally, he added.

Thousands of demonstrators marched through western Herat city and around 200 in Kabul, but there was no violence at either protest.

Reporting by Mohammad Bashir, Editing by Jeremy Laurence

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