BAGHLAN, Afghanistan -- Afghan officials and citizens are strongly condemning the killing of at least 13 coal miners in Baghlan Province.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the killings, but the government blamed the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL), which it says is making steady inroads into Afghanistan .
"On Friday [January 6], militants linked to ISIL killed at least 13 Shia Hazara miners in the Tala Wa Barfak District," District Governor Faiz Muhammad Amiri told Salaam Times.
"The latest attack against ethnic minorities was in Anarak village," he said.
The victims all came from central Daikundi Province, according to Amiri. Gunmen attacked the bus in which the workers were passengers, pulling them out of the vehicle and shooting them, he said.
The workers were on their way home when the militants ambushed the bus, provincial police commander Maj. Gen. Aminullah Amarkhil said.
Police deployed to the area to launch an investigation and ensure other employees are protected, he said.
"We are investigating the incident and will seek revenge," Baghlan Governor Abdul Satar Barez told Salaam Times.
The Afghan government is investigating the case too and is working with security forces to stabilise the situation, Ministry of Interior (MoI) deputy spokesman Najib Danish said in Kabul January 6.
Insurgents want to divide the people of Afghanistan, but Afghans stand united, he said.
"Our people know who their enemies are," he said.
The killing of Hazaras in Baghlan is religious and ethnic hypocrisy, Afghan government Second Deputy Chief Executive Mohammad Mohaqiq said in Kabul.
"The victims were Hazara and Shia," he said at a news conference in Kabul.
The victims worked in the mine to support their families and were neither military nor political actors, he said.
The attack is a "disgrace" to the militants and shows "they have no place among the people", Mohaqiq added.
Dozens of angered Bamiyan residents gathered in Kabul Saturday (January 7) to urge the government to step up the prevention of attacks on religious and ethnic minorities.
"These killings continue the genocide of Hazaras in Afghanistan," said Milad Hussein Firuzi, a civil rights activist from Bamiyan who participated in the demonstration, referring to past terrorist massacres of Hazaras.
"This is an inhuman act of ISIL and insurgents to kill our people," he told Salaam Times. "There is no place for such action and for the people who are doing it in Islam or in our culture."
Afghans reject sectarian discord
ISIL is the only insurgent group seeking to divide Afghans through sectarian attacks, said Faraidoon Khwazoon, a spokesman for Afghan government Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.
"This is an inhuman act committed by ISIL , which wants to start a fight between Sunni and Shia in the country," he told Salaam Times. "We are united and one nation -- there is no Sunni nor Shia, but we are Afghans first."
ISIL is "attempting to provoke sectarian war in Afghanistan and divide our nation", said Mulvi Muhammad Ayaz Niyazi, a Kabul-based religious scholar.
The killing of innocent people is forbidden in Islam , he said, adding that the coal miners were "innocent people and common workers in Baghlan".
Murdering civilians for their racial and ethnic differences is a war crime, the Nan Zwana Madani Tolana (NZMT) youth organisation said.
The killing of innocent people is unforgivable and unforgettable, NZMT member Rohullah Haidari said.
"There is no place for ISIL in society," he told Salaam Times.