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Swedish UN worker dead after Afghanistan demo

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20:42 CEST+02:00
A 33-year-old Swedish man was among a number of United Nations personnel killed in Afghanistan on Friday after a demonstration turned violent in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

"It is with deep sorrow that I have now unfortunately received confirmation that Swede Joakim Dungel was killed while working for the UN in Afghanistan," Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt wrote on his blog on Friday night.

Five Nepalese and three other international UN staff were killed Friday in an attack by protesters on a United Nations compound in Afghanistan in which a number of attackers also died, a UN official said.

The senior official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Nepalese Gurkha guards killed some of the protesters before they were fatally wounded by the crowd which attacked the UN compound in Mazar-i-Sharif protesting over the burning of a Koran by a US pastor.

"We can confirm that the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) operations centre in Mazar-i-Sharif, in northern Afghanistan has been attacked today following a demonstration," UNAMA spokesperson Dan McNorton said in a statement.

"We can also confirm that there have been United Nations personnel deaths. The situation is still confusing and we are currently working to ascertain all the facts and take care of all our staff."

A Norwegian officer was "in all likelihood" also among the victims of the attack, the Norwegian army said.

Mazar-i-Sharif also serves as the home base for Swedish forces serving as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.

Speaking with the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper from Afghanistan, Swedish military spokesperson Mikael Wallentin Åström explained that no Swedish soldiers were involved with the incident, but that they were ready to act if needed.

"Right now our units are on standby either to prevent or provide support in the event of a threat," he told SvD.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Anders Jörle told the Expressen newspaper that two Swedes worked in the UN office in Mazar-i-Sharif, which came under attack following a demonstration against US pastor Wayne Sapp, who burned a copy of the Koran in Florida on March 20th.

The burning took place under the supervision of Terry Jones, another US pastor who caused controversy last year over plans to burn copies of the Koran on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

According to the BBC, the protests in Mazar-i-Sharif were among several carried out in a number of Afghan cities on Friday, which some demonstrators called a "day of anger".

Dungel is the second Swedish UN worker killed in as many days while serving for the global body.

On Thursday, a Swedish national working for the UN in the Ivory Coast was killed in Abidjan by a stray bullet in escalating post-election violence.

Writing on his Twitter account, Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt called Friday "a dark day for UN & Sweden" and that he was "extremely concerned" about the attacks in Mazar-i-Sharif.

US President Barack Obama condemned the attack "in the strongest possible terms", while UN chief Ban Ki-Moon called it "outrageous and cowardly."

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the violence, saying it was the first step in a campaign against the upcoming presidential elections.

Dungel graduated from the University of Gothenburg's School of Business, Economics, and Law in 2004 and later received an LLM from New York University.

He had worked previously with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda in the Hague and the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH), an international civilian observer mission that reports to the Palestinian and Israeli authorities and six member countries.

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