UN Security Council meets on deadly Afghan attack

3 int'l staff, 4 guards confirmed dead; Ban calls attacks "outrageous, cowardly"; Obama: UN work essential to building strong Afghanistan.

Afghani protesters after UN attack_311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Afghani protesters after UN attack_311
(photo credit: Reuters)
UNITED NATIONS - The UN Security Council was holding an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss a deadly attack on the UN compound in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
UN officials in New York said earlier as many as 20 UN staff may have been killed in the attack. But UN peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy told reporters on the way into the council meeting that the final UN death toll would likely be much lower. There were seven confirmed dead.
The UN officials said the earlier figure had included Afghans demonstrating against the burning of Islam's holy book, the Koran, by an obscure American pastor, not UN personnel.
Le Roy was briefing the 15-nation council about the circumstances of the attack. Afterward, the council members were planning to issue a statement condemning the assault, UN diplomats said.
The confirmed dead included three international UN staff and three international Gurkha guards. Le Roy added that a fourth guard may also have been killed. No Afghan nationals working for the United Nations died in the attack, although five Afghan demonstrators were among the dead, Le Roy said.
Norway's UN mission said on its Twitter page that Norwegian Lieutenant Colonel Siri Skare, 53, was among those killed in Mazar-i-Sharif. Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt also posted a Twitter message that said a young Swedish man had been killed.
Le Roy said a Romanian was also among the dead.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters in Nairobi that the attack was "outrageous and cowardly." US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said in a statement it was a "horrific and senseless attack."
US President Barack Obama also strongly condemned the attack, offering condolences to the families and urging the parties to resolve their differences through dialogue.
"I condemn in the strongest possible terms the attack on the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan today," Obama said in a statement. "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."
The UN Staff Union, which represents UN employees worldwide, issued a statement expressing outrage at the attack.
"The Staff Union requests the Afghan authorities to investigate the incident, to take all possible measures to protect UN staff throughout the country and to prevent the reoccurrence of such tragic events," the union said.
The deaths came after protesters demonstrating against the burning of the Koran over-ran the UN compound, police said.
An Afghan police spokesman said two of the dead were beheaded by attackers who also burned parts of the compound and climbed up blast walls to topple a guard tower. Le Roy said no one was beheaded, although one victim's throat was cut.