THE ONGOING CONSEQUENCES OF A DEADLY STUNT…. When radical Christian cleric Terry Jones burned a Koran on March 20, his little cry for attention was largely ignored. American media outlets, who’d reported on the fringe pastor’s original plan last September, blew Jones off this time.

But news of the Floridian’s antics nevertheless spread, slowly but surely, and this week, reached Afghanistan. Friday, a trio of angry mullahs created a riot in Mazar-i-Sharif, with thousands of enraged Muslims attacking a United Nations facility in retaliation for Jones’s actions, killing at least 12 people.

The protests have spread throughout Afghanistan in recent days, with violent anti-American protests, inspired by the actions of one lunatic pastor in Florida, breaking out in multiple parts of the country. The casualty rate is not yet clear, but there have been multiple reports of deaths and serious injuries, including some involving civilians.

Today, Gen. David Petraeus and Mark Sedwill, NATO’s Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan, issued a statement, pleading for calm.

“In view of the events of recent days, we feel it is important on behalf of ISAF and NATO members in Afghanistan to reiterate our condemnation of any disrespect to the Holy Qu’ran and the Muslim faith. We condemn, in particular, the action of an individual in the United States who recently burned the Holy Qu’ran.

“We also offer condolences to the families of all those injured and killed in violence which occurred in the wake of the burning of the Holy Qu’ran.

“We further hope the Afghan people understand that the actions of a small number of individuals, who have been extremely disrespectful to the Holy Qu’ran, are not representative of any of the countries of the international community who are in Afghanistan to help the Afghan people.”

It must be painfully frustrating for Petraeus and Sedwill to realize that any recent gains in Afghanistan can be undermined, dramatically, by a press stunt organized by a fringe crackpot in Florida.

It’s worth noting a few related angles, though. First, it’s not just Jones — resentment has been growing throughout much of the country. Second, while Jones’ actions have had deadly consequences, it’s a handful of local mullahs who’ve deliberately whipped up a violent frenzy. Jay Bookman summarized the problem nicely: “It’s one of the oldest and saddest stories in human history — one group of religious idiots provoking another group of religious idiots, and innocent people die.”

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.