Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Afghanistan’s Ghazni city to demand justice for last week’s beheading of seven members of the Shia Hazara ethnic group, including three women and two children.
Demonstrators chanted “death to Islamic State” on Tuesday as a van carried the coffins covered by Afghan flags.
The victims were found dead on Saturday. Afghan police blamed the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) for the killings.
“We want justice not just for them but for the thousands other innocent people who are brutally killed this way, almost every day,” protester Ismail Khanjar told Al Jazeera.
“We don’t care if they were Shia Muslims or not. For us they are human and they were killed in the most brutal way. What was their fault?
Another protester told Al Jazeera the bodies would be transported from Ghazni to the capital Kabul, 130km away, for a demonstration planned on Wednesday near the presidential palace.
“We are going to protest in Kabul tomorrow,” said Amanullah Kamrani. “We won’t back down until we get answers and better security.”
Hamidullah Nawroz, a member of Ghazni’s provincial council, also took part in the protest.
“We demand security from the Afghan National Unity Government for people of all communities throughout the country,” he said.
“We will keep protesting until we are sure that our families are protected.”
According to Afghan officials, the Hazara hostages were captured by ISIL fighters more than a month ago, and were held in Arghandab district of Zabul province.
They were beheaded with razor wire and their bodies were discovered by the Taliban who handed them over to local elders.
The Hazara have long suffered oppression and persecution in Afghanistan. During the 1990s, thousands were killed by al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters.
Sayed Zafar Hashemi, deputy spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani, told Al Jazeera security threats affect the entire nation, and not just specific communities.
“We are doing everything we can to help protect our people,” he said.
Afghanistan has several ethnic groups including Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks and Turkmen – mainly in the north and west – as well as Pashtun, located primarily in the south and east.
ISIL emerged in Afghanistan last year. A Taliban splinter group calling itself the High Council of Afghanistan Islamic Emirate announced last week it had elected its own leader, defying new Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor.
Violent clashes between two armed groups in southern Afghanistan erupted on Sunday, resulting in the death of at least 50 fighters from both sides.