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Twenty-Two Dead in Afghan Protests Over Florida Koran Burning, But Is Terry Jones Directly to Blame?

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Twenty-two people, including several United Nations workers, have been killed in Afghanistan during protests over Florida pastor Terry Jones's burning of a Koran in his tiny Gainesville church. Jones, who had postponed the burning after threatening to hold International Burn a Koran Day on the ninth anniversary of September 11, has been met with criticism from the highest level of the American government, with some politicians wondering if any formal action should be taken against him. However, a new report in the Los Angeles Times suggests the deaths might be the result of Taliban exploitation of what were originally planned to be peaceful protests.

See, it sure seems funny, in the darkest sense, to murder people when someone burns your holy book and declares it evil. Laura King of the L.A. Times reports the violence is the result of Taliban exploitation:

Both Afghan and Western officials cited mounting evidence that insurgents had seized the opportunity to infiltrate crowds of demonstrators in both Kandahar and Mazar-i-Sharif, concealing themselves among those who otherwise might have marched relatively peacefully.

De Mistura said the three Europeans who died in the Mazar-i-Sharif compound were not victims of random mob violence but were hunted down in the bunker where they had taken refuge. Afghan officials, who have made dozens of arrests in connection with the assault, said evidence so far suggested that the main instigators were allied with the insurgency.

But the actions of Jones's Dove World Outreach Church can still be blamed for setting off the instability, and during his first round of threats to burn copies of the Koran, Jones was made well aware of the turmoil his actions could cause.

"We... find this a very tragic and criminal action," Jones said in a release following the violence. "The United States government and the United Nations itself must take immediate action. We must hold these countries and people accountable for what they have done as well as for any excuses they may use to promote their terrorist activities."

[Salon: Did a Quran burning really cause Afghan violence?]

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