Asia

Afghan Hazara killings spur thousands to march in Kabul

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThousands march in Kabul over Hazara killings

Afghan security forces have fired warning shots into the air at a protest in Kabul, injuring seven people, according to officials.

Police fired the shots to disperse protesters marching outside the presidential palace.

Thousands are protesting against the recent abduction and killing of seven civilians from the Hazara ethnic minority.

It is not clear who carried out the killings.

The bodies were found in the southern province of Zabul where fighting between Taliban factions has escalated recently. Some of the victims had had their throats slit.

The marchers carried the coffins of the dead through the streets of Kabul in the pouring rain.

"Today they kill us, tomorrow they kill you," some chanted. Others carried banners bearing photos of the victims and shouted "Death to the Taliban".

At the scene: Waheed Massoud, BBC Afghan editor, Kabul

Image copyright JAWAD JALALI
Image caption Protesters are calling for government action

Thousands of people took part in the protest - most were Hazaras, but there were many from other ethnic groups too. Tajiks, Uzbeks and Pashtuns, including some MPs, all took part.

They demanded better security from President Ghani and his government. The killings of the seven Hazaras are shocking even in a country which has seen so much violence.

Three of those killed by the militants were women - and there were many women in the crowds in Kabul, some breaking with tradition once more to help carry the coffins.

Kabul has not witnessed such scenes since the mob killing in March of a young woman, Farkhunda, who was falsely accused of burning the Koran.

The Hazaras are a united and politically active community in Afghanistan.

Dozens of them have been abducted in recent months, it is thought by militants seeking to free fellow fighters or their relatives held in custody. Some hostages have been freed.

Who was behind the killings remains unclear.

The murdered Hazaras included four men, two women and a nine-year-old girl.

Officials said they were among dozens of Hazaras kidnapped in a number of abductions dating back to last year.

Afghan security forces have reportedly stopped live coverage of the protests by private television channel Ariana News TV.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption More than 5,000 people are protesting against the killings of seven civilians from the Hazara minority
Image copyright EPA
Image caption Groups of women carried coffins through the streets of Kabul

Afghanistan has a large population of minority Hazaras who are mostly Shia Muslims. But unlike in neighbouring Pakistan they have been largely spared attacks by Sunni militants in recent years.

The killings have fuelled concern over security in Afghanistan. President Ashraf Ghani's government has come under increasing pressure to address the issue.

"This issue doesn't belong to a family, a tribe or an ethnic group, but it belongs to all Afghans," said Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi, speaker of the lower house of parliament.

Who are the Hazaras?

- Of Mongolian and Central Asian descent

- Mainly practise Shia Islam, in predominantly Sunni Afghanistan and Pakistan

- Thought to be the third largest ethnic group in Afghanistan

- Estimates suggest they make up 15-20% of Afghanistan's population, which is thought to be about 30 million

- At least 600,000 Hazaras live in Pakistan, most of them in Quetta

- Legend has it they are descendants of Genghis Khan and his soldiers, who invaded Afghanistan in the 13th Century

Related Topics

More on this story