Afghans demand justice for killings

Protesters carrying the coffin of a slain Shi'ite Hazara in Kabul yesterday. The victims were believed to have been held hostage by gunmen for months. Their bodies were found last Saturday.
Protesters carrying the coffin of a slain Shi'ite Hazara in Kabul yesterday. The victims were believed to have been held hostage by gunmen for months. Their bodies were found last Saturday.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

KABUL • Thousands of protesters marched with coffins containing the decapitated bodies of seven Shi'ite Hazaras through the Afghan capital Kabul to demand justice for the gruesome beheadings, which the United Nations says may be considered a war crime.

Demonstrators gathered in west Kabul yesterday and walked through the rain, bearing the coffins draped in green to the gates of the presidential palace, where organisers said they were planning to stage a sit-in until their demands were met by the government.

"The people are asking why the government has been indifferent towards these crimes, people are demanding the resignation of the heads of the government because they have been inefficient and corrupt and never address the demands of the people," said Mr Jawad Sultani, a university lecturer at the protests.

The number of protesters outside the palace dwindled to dozens after police fired warning shots in the air, though many people remained in the streets.

The three million-strong mostly Shi'ite Hazara community has been persecuted for decades.

There has been a surge in violence against the Hazara this year, with a series of kidnappings and killings that have triggered a wave of fury on social media.

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 last Saturday in Zabul province, where fighting between rival Taleban groups has escalated in recent days.

President Ashraf Ghani has condemned the killings and promised an investigation, but the crimes have fuelled a growing sense of insecurity since the Taleban briefly seized control of the key northern city of Kunduz in late September.

The UN has followed the Afghan government and the US in condemning the killings, suggesting they may have been a war crime.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 12, 2015, with the headline 'Afghans demand justice for killings'. Print Edition | Subscribe