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Preacher 'not sorry' for Koran burning as 22 killed

The Christian preacher in Florida whose burning of a Koran triggered deadly riots in Afghanistan was unrepentant yesterday.

Twenty-two people have lost their lives since the protests began in Mazar-i-Sharif, including two policemen killed in clashes in Kandahar yesterday.

The pastor, Terry Jones, a former hotel manager turned pastor who claims the Koran incites violence, said he did not regret his actions and vowed to lead an anti-Islam protest outside the biggest mosque in the United States. Jones said he will go ahead with a protest on April 22 in front of the largest mosque in the United States, in Dearborn, Michigan.

Meanwhile, it emerged yesterday that the United Nations staff who were killed on Friday, two by beheading, were hunted down in a secret bunker in their compound. Staffan de Mistura, the UN envoy to Afghanistan, gave the shocking details about the actions of the mob, which was protesting over the burning of a Koran organised by Jones.

He blamed Mr Jones for provoking the violence that led to the killing of seven UN employees and which spread throughout Afghanistan over the weekend.

Barack Obama condemned Mr Jones's actions, but said they did not justify the attacks. The desecration of the Koran was "an act of extreme intolerance and bigotry", but "no religion tolerates the slaughter and beheading of innocent people, and there is no justification for such a deplorable act", he said.

There were protests in Jalalabad, Parwan and Kandahar yesterday. Nine people were killed protests in Kandahar on Saturday.

Jones defended the Koran burning and said the reaction in Afghanistan "shows exactly what we're talking about." He said he has received several hundred death threats since he first talked of burning the Koran last September, leading him to carry a handgun and take shooting classes.

Safety concerns at the church have driven away most of the churchgoers "We have seen a drop-off,"he said. He did not say whether he intended to burn another Koran during the upcoming protest, which he said should not be viewed as an attack against all Muslims.

"To the peaceful Muslim that lives down the street, we are sorry if our actions have offended them, which I am sure it has. But at the same we are not trying to attack them," he said. "We are trying to make it very clear that we are against this radical element," he added. (© Daily Telegraph, London)