“Every security force leader’s worst nightmare is being confronted by essentially a mob, especially one that wants to incite violence and hijack passions,” US General David Petraeus said. –Photo by AP

WASHINGTON: The burning of the Quran at a small Florida church — an event that resulted in a third day of deadly riots in Afghanistan — creates new dangers for the US-led mission against the Taliban, US General David Petraeus told the Wall Street Journal.

In the interview, which was posted on the newspaper’s website late Sunday, Petraeus said the March 20 burning “was a surprise.”

Petraeus, commander of the US-led international force in Afghanistan, deplored the burning as “hateful, extremely disrespectful and enormously intolerant.”

“Every security force leader’s worst nightmare is being confronted by essentially a mob, if you will, especially one that can be influenced by individuals that want to incite violence, who want to try to hijack passions, in this case, perhaps understandable passions,” Petraeus told the Journal.

“Obviously it’s an additional serious security challenge in a country that faces considerable security challenges,” he said.

Violent protests against the Quran burning that began in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif on Friday claimed the lives of at least 22 people, including seven foreign UN staff.

At a security meeting Sunday attended by Petraeus and US ambassador Karl Eikenberry, President Hamid Karzai repeated his call for the US administration and the US Senate to “condemn the act in strong words and bring those responsible to justice,” his office said in a statement.

President Barack Obama on Saturday condemned the Quran burning as an act of “extreme intolerance and bigotry”.

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