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Anger in Kabul over minority killings

Protesters have tried to scale walls around the presidential compound as rage builds over unsolved killings of ethnic minorities in the capital Kabul. Demonstrators have been camped outside the palace following funerals.

Warning shots were fired outside the presidential palace in Kabul Wednesday, where thousands of people are protesting the gruesome beheadings of seven ethnic Hazaras, Afghan police said.

Widespread anger has erupted in the streets following the murders of the Persian-speaking, Shiite minority whose headless bodies were found Sunday. In one of the largest spontaneous demonstrations in the capital in years, thousands marched to demand justice for the victims.

They had been

kidnapped in neighboring Ghazni province

earlier this year. Afghan intelligence has dismissed Taliban claims that affiliates of the Islamic State group were responsible for the murders.

Bearing the green-draped coffins of the dead and carrying banners with slogans such as "The Taliban are committing crimes and the government is supporting them," the procession marched more than 10 kilometers (six miles) to the presidential palace.

"The only way to prevent such crimes in the future is to take over all government offices until they wake up and make a decision," 40-year-old demonstrator Sayed Karim, one of thousands who filled the whole of Mazari Square, told the Reuters news agency.

President Ashraf Ghani has condemned the killings and promised that police would investigate. But his words have done little to calm a growing sense of insecurity in the capital since the

Taliban briefly seized control of the northern city of Kunduz

in late September.

Indignation over unsolved killings in Afghan capital

Afghanistan Demonstration Gerechtigkeit Volksgruppe der Hazara

Thousands march bearing the coffins of ethnic Hazara beheaded by unknowned militants and left in the streets of Kabul.

Ghani's national unity government has come under increasing pressure to address the deteriorating security situation in parliament but so far has refused to do so.

"This sends a very dangerous message to the people of Afghanistan, its government and its international allies," said Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi, speaker of the lower house of parliament.

Besides the senseless nature of the killing of the seven civilians - including three women and two children - the beheadings have exacerbated risk that sectarian hatred would destabilize a country already struggling to hold together a mix of different ethnicities.

Demonstrators complain that Hazara people are being killed every day on the roads between Ghazni, Bamyan and Wardak provinces to the west of Kabul. It's in these regions where the Taliban control much of the countryside after international forces ceased

most combat operations

last year.

Protesters demanded that the government either take action and bring security to the Afghan people or leave office.

"We want to raise our voice against the barbaric Taliban and ISIS," Abdul Ghafoor, the chief of an organization supporting displaced people, told the DPA news agency. "We want to tell them that the people of Afghanistan have had enough of their cruelty."

jar/jil (Reuters, dpa, AFP)

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