Thousands of protesters converged on Kabul on Nov. 11 after extremists affiliated with Islamic State group reportedly beheaded seven people, including a 9-year-old girl.
Despite persistent rain and overcast skies, the crowd swelled as protesters reached the city's presidential palace, carrying the coffins of the victims, reports The New York Times. All seven victims were Hazara, Persian-speaking ethnic minorities who are frequent targets of extremists.
Once the group reached the palace, protesters called for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to do more to protect civilians as more of the country's militant groups pledge fealty to Islamic State group.
“For too long, we have been buried in silence,” protest organizer Mohamad Ishaq Mowahidi said, reported The New York Times. “The logical way is for us to submit the coffins as a gift to the government.”
While witnesses said the bulk of the protest was peaceful, Afghan security forces fired warning shots into the air at one point, ordering the crowd to disperse when a "smaller group of young protesters" began throwing rocks through the windows of government buildings and attempted to scale the palace walls.
On Twitter, Afghan users shared photos of the protest, and of the young victim, Shukria. The headless bodies of four male victims, two adult women, and the child were found on Nov. 7 in a neighboring province, the Daily Mail reported.
"We know that neglect and dereliction of duty of the government in recent months in themselves ended up in the victimization of the seven defenseless people and the president of Afghanistan on behalf of the government should apologize to the families of the victims for dereliction of its duty in carrying out its responsibilities," the nonprofit World Hazara Council, which advocates for the persecuted minority, wrote in a statement.
A United Nations spokesman echoed those sentiments.
“These senseless murders may amount to war crimes, and the perpetrators must be held accountable,” said Nicholas Haysom, the United Nations secretary general’s special representative for Afghanistan, according to The Times.
Amid calls for his resignation, Ghani said the Afghan government would hunt down the killers.
"We are committed to taking revenge for our countrymen's blood," the Afghan president said in a television address to citizens. "In this way, we will not spare any effort. But you have to remember that anything can happen if we don't control our feelings. We should avoid actions that could result in anarchy."