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Gunmen Kill Dozens Of Civilians In Afghanistan, Prompting Protests

  • RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan

Afghan men and a woman gather around the bodies of civilians, including children, who were allegedly killed by Islamic State (IS) militants in Ghor Province on October 26.

Afghan men and a woman gather around the bodies of civilians, including children, who were allegedly killed by Islamic State (IS) militants in Ghor Province on October 26.

Gunmen have rounded up and shot dead dozens of civilians in central Afghanistan, prompting protests by locals about government failure to protect them.

Hundreds of protesters o October 26 marched through the center of Firoz Koh, the provincial capital of Ghor Province, to vent their frustrations after gunmen killed 31 civilians, including six children.

Local officials blamed the killings on the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, although no group has yet to claim responsibility for the attack.

Officials said the attack may have been a revenge strike after a local IS commander was killed the previous day.

Mohammad, one of the protesters, said most of the victims were shepherds. He said at least six people were still missing.

"The Taliban together with Daesh took more than 2,500 sheep from our villages,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for the IS group. "Last night they killed 30 civilians, including six children, that had gone to collect wood near a nearby mountain."

The Taliban, which denied responsibility, said the killings appeared to have been provoked by ethnic rivalries fueled by a row over grazing and livestock.

Ghor is a poor and mountainous province with deep ethnic and tribal divisions and illegal armed groups operate with impunity.

The central province of Ghor has not been a major center for IS militants. The militant group has so far been largely confined to the eastern province of Nangarhar.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's office strongly condemned the attack, saying that "once again, the enemies of the Afghan people carried out another attack on civilians and killed innocent people."

The United Nations condemned the incident as an "atrocity."

Amnesty International denounced the killings as a "horrendous crime."

"There can be no justification whatsoever for targeting and killing civilians. The victims and their families deserve justice," the rights group said, calling for an independent investigation.

With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters
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