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UN office head ‘claimed to be Muslim’ to survive Afghan mob

The head of the UN office in the Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif survived Friday’s deadly attack by pretending to be Muslim, the UN special representative said Saturday.

The unnamed Russian chief “survived because he claimed to be Muslim — although he was beaten, they let him go,” envoy Staffan de Mistura told reporters in the Afghan capital.

Three European employees were killed in the mob violence later claimed by the Taliban — a Swede, a Norwegian and one reported to be Romanian. They had hidden in a secure room along with the Russian, de Mistura said.

The Russian “was separated because when they broke into the bunker, they saw him first and the others were hiding in the dark, and he tried basically to draw their (the attackers’) attention to him,” the envoy said.

The survivor speaks Dari, one of Afghanistan’s two official languages, de Mistura added.

“He also spoke the language and for a moment he hoped by doing so, they’ll think there was no one else left. But it didn’t work out like that… The other three were killed, one after the other,” he said.

Four Nepalese guards were also killed in the attack, while another two escaped because they had been working on watchtowers which were brought down by the crowd and landed outside the compound, allowing them to get away.

Two Afghan UN workers were able to escape the violence unharmed.

De Mistura said that insurgents from outside appeared to have infiltrated protests taking place in the city over the burning of a Koran by an obscure evangelical pastor in the United States last month.

The insurgents were likely responsible for the killings, he said.