Protesters bearing coffins of Shia Muslims killed in restive Afghan province condemn Taliban and Islamic State.
Thousands of protesters have marched coffins containing the decapitated bodies of seven Shia Hazaras through Kabul to demand justice for the victims of the gruesome beheadings, which the United Nations say may be considered a war crime.
Demonstrators gathered in the rain in the west of the Afghan capital and marched towards the city centre, chanting death to the Taliban and Islamic State, while demanding justice and protection from the government.
Though it is unclear who is responsible, both the Taliban and Isis affiliates have been blamed for the beheadings, which have prompted fears of sectarian bloodshed .
The marchers carried pictures of the victims, including two women and a child, a girl whose coffin was carried by grieving women.
“This is a protest to demand justice for the victims who were so mercilessly murdered. We demand justice for people who are brutally killed by terrorists every day,” protester Mohammad Hadi said.
“We want revenge. Today they kill us, tomorrow they kill you,” the protesters chanted.
The protesters planned to take the bodies, which were brought to Kabul on Tuesday night after being found in restive Zabul province, to the presidential palace, organisers said.
The protest came as the United Nations followed the Afghan government and the US in condemning the killings, suggesting they may have been a war crime.
“These senseless murders may amount to war crimes and the perpetrators must be held accountable,” Nicholas Haysom, the UN’s special representative forAfghanistan, said in a statement on Wednesday.
The circumstances surrounding the beheadings remain unclear. The bodies of the seven victims, who are believed to have been held hostage by unknown gunmen for months, were found on Saturday. Fighting in Zabul between rival Taliban groups has escalated in recent days.
Some local officials have blamed Isis sympathisers for the killings, but the government does not have control of the area and the claim could not be verified.
On Tuesday, Afghanistan’s intelligence agency rejected the suggestion that Isis affiliates were responsible, saying that the southern province had been the scene of deadly clashes between the rival Taliban factions for days.
The 3 million-strong Afghan Hazara community has been persecuted for decades, with thousands killed in the late 1990s by the mainly Pashtun Sunni Taliban.
There has been an upsurge in violence against the mostly Shia Hazara this year, with a series of kidnappings and killings that have triggered a wave of fury on social media and condemnation by the Afghan president and the US.