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Thousands Of Afghans Protest Over Hazara Beheadings

Women chat slogans during a protest against the killing of seven people from the Hazara community in Kabul on November 11.
Women chat slogans during a protest against the killing of seven people from the Hazara community in Kabul on November 11.

Afghan police on November 11 fired into the air to drive back protesters who tried to climb the walls of a building near the president's palace, as anger boiled over about the beheading of seven members of the Hazara ethnic minority by Islamist militants.

The incident happened as thousands of Afghans marched through Kabul to protest the murders, allegedly by Taliban militants.

The protesters carried the coffins of the seven victims and called for a new government that can ensure security in the country.

The protesters chanted death slogans targeting the Taliban and Islamic State (IS) militant group but also called for the resignations of President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, the two main figures in a power-sharing deal propping up the central government that both those militant groups oppose.

There has been an upsurge in violence this year against the Afghan Hazara community, which is predominantly Shi'ite, including a series of kidnappings and killings.

The four men, two women, and a child were found partially beheaded on November 7 in the southeastern province of Zabul, where rival Taliban factions have been engaged in intense fighting in recent days.

It is unclear who killed the seven, who were abducted in neighboring Ghazni Province about six months earlier.

Local officials said the Taliban had hanged eight IS militants involved in the killings, but Afghanistan's spy agency dismissed that claim.

Ghani condemned the murders as a "heartless killing of innocent individuals" and promised an investigation.

UN Special Representative for Afghanistan Nicholas Haysom also issued a statement, saying, "These senseless murders may amount to war crimes and the perpetrators must be held accountable."

There have been reports for several days of fighting between two Taliban factions in Zabul, where militants control several districts and some fighters have declared allegiance to IS.

Mullah Akhtar Mansur assumed the leadership of the Afghan Taliban amid some contradictory reports after Kabul announced in July that Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar had been dead for two years.

Earlier this month, a splinter Taliban faction announced it had appointed its own leader, Mullah Mohammad Rasul.

In the latest confrontation between the two factions, the splinter group claimed last week it had carried out a suicide attack on its Taliban rivals, killing and wounding dozens of fighters loyal to Mullah Mansur.

With reporting by AFP, Reuters, AP, and the BBC