Afghans march through capital to protest Hazara killings

KABUL: Thousands of people marched through the Afghan capital on Wednesday, carrying the coffins of seven ethnic Hazaras who were allegedly killed by the Taliban and calling for a new government that can ensure security in the country.


The demonstrators gathered in the rain west of the city and organizers said they would carry the bodies to the Presidential Palace.

The four men, two women and a child were found partially beheaded on Saturday in the southeastern province of Zabul, officials have said.

They had been kidnapped in neighboring Ghazni province up to six months earlier. Afghanistan’s spy agency dismissed Taliban claims that affiliates of the Islamic State group were behind the killings.

In the past five days, rival Taliban groups have been fighting each other in the region where the bodies were found.

Protesters, holding banners with photos of the victims, chanted “Death to the Taliban” and called on President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah to resign.

Civil society activist Zahra Sepehr, one of the protest organizers, estimated a turnout of about 10,000, which would make it the biggest demonstration in Kabul since the killing of a young woman, Farkhunda, by a mob in March.

“We want justice and we want this government, Ghani and Abdullah, to go so that we can have a government that protects all the people of the country and brings security to the whole country,” Sepehr told The Associated Press.

She said the deaths of the seven were evidence of the lack of security across Afghanistan.

This year, the Taliban has extended its reach across Afghanistan in its fight to topple the government, and the Islamic State group is also believed to have a presence in Zabul, as well as in the southeastern Nangarhar province.

Ghani sent a delegation to Ghazni to investigate the killings and attend funerals, his office said. A statement described the kidnappers as “mainly non-local terrorists.”

While the dead were Hazaras, a predominantly Shiite minority subject to past atrocities and this year to a number of large-scale kidnappings, the demonstrators included members of all Afghanistan’s ethnic groups.