Protesters in Afghanistan stormed the presidential palace in Kabul on Wednesday, carrying the coffins of seven civilians from the Hazara Shiite minority, recently beheaded by Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL)-linked terrorists.
Two women and a 9-year old girl were among the victims.
Angry protesters, reportedly numbering in the thousands, demanded protection from the government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
“Death to the Taliban,” “Down with the Government,” “Death to the Islamic State,” and “Death to Pakistan,” chanted the crowd.
“They accused President Ashraf Ghani of incompetence in the face of deteriorating security and called for the resignation of his coalition government,” reports the New York Times (NYT).
The Times reports that their throats were cut with “metal wire.”
ISIS-linked militants from the ethnic Uzbek minority in Afghanistan have been accused of kidnapping and beheading the victims over the weekend.
The Times reports that the beheadings and a recently released propaganda video showing jihadists invading an army base have prompted fears that terrorists linked to the group are consolidating its power and hold on territory it has conquered in the country.
According to a United Nations report that surfaced in September, ISIS is expanding its presence in Afghanistan as it actively recruits followers in nearly 75 percent (25) of the country’s 34 provinces.
A top Russian military official estimated last month that there are up to 3,000 ISIS militants in Afghanistan, noting that their presence continues to grow.
The seven civilians who were recently killed by ISIS-linked militants are from the minority Shiite Hazara sect that has been discriminated against for centuries in Afghanistan.
“Fellow Shiite Muslims have also been massacred by ISIS and other extremist groups in neighboring Pakistan, as well as in Iraq and Syria,” notes the NBC News.
“Thousands of mainly Hazaras carried the bodies of the victims through the streets of Kabul on Wednesday and called on the government to halt sectarian violence,” adds the article.
Before it was overthrown by U.S.-led forces in 2001, the Taliban massacred and oppressed the Hazaras, according to various reports.
Citing video broadcast in Afghanistan, CNN reports that Afghan security forces fired bullets in the air, seemingly to disband the protesters who were trying to breach the gates of the presidential palace.
Ismail Kawoosi, spokesman for the Afghan Health Ministry revealed that at least seven civilians, including two girls, have been injured.
“The girls were stepped on and are not seriously injured, but men were injured by stray bullets as a result of warning shots,” he reportedly indicated.
According to the Times, the “thousands” that marched on the presidential palace included Afghans “from all walks of life, including laborers, university students and retired people.”
“We are all here — Hazara, Pashtun, Tajik, Uzbek — to demand justice,” protester Kamela, a 22-year-old university student, told NBC News, mentioning the country’s main ethnic groups. “We will not go back to those days,” she added, referring to the Taliban regime, and the Afghanistan’s civil war during which ethnic militias turned their guns on each other.
Provincial officials believe ISIS-linked Uzbek militants kidnapped and killed the Hazaras over the weekend in Afghanistan’s southern Zabul province, which shares a border with Pakistan, reports NBC News.
The Uzbek terrorists are reportedly fighting alongside a Taliban splinter group fighting to wrest control of the Taliban away from the group’s recently appointed leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, who took over in July.
A spokesman for the breakaway Taliban faction reportedly said that an estimated 400 Uzbeks are fighting with the breakaway group led by Mullah Mohammad Rasool Akhund.
The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) pledged their allegiance to ISIS in a video released July 31.
“Militants linked to ISIS have made some inroads in the regions, luring members of the Taliban who are unhappy with the Afghan group’s leadership,” reports NBC News.
NBC News notes that the new 17-minute ISIS propaganda video release Monday includes the first footage showing the terrorist group launching a coordinated attack on a military base in Afghanistan.
District chief Haji Ghalib reportedly noted that the military outpost, located in Nangarhar province’s Achin District, an estimated 90 miles east of Kabul, was retaken by Afghan Army soldiers later in July.
Alkhouri called the video footage “unprecedented,” adding that it showed “an ISIS-style attack” similar to those conducted in Iraq and Syria.
“They are essentially copying from ISIS military manual,” he added.
ISIS announced the establishment of its Khorasan province in January. Khorasan is a historic name for a region that covers Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, India, and other surrounding countries.