QUETTA, Pakistan (Dispatches) -- Hundreds of mourners in Pakistan protested Wednesday for a fourth day alongside the bodies of miners killed in a brutal attack claimed by the Daesh group, as officials urged them to bury their dead.
Up to 2,500 people from the minority Shia Hazara community have since Sunday blocked a road on the outskirts of Quetta, capital of oil and gas-rich Balochistan province, demanding better protection.
There were also protests in the port city of Karachi.
Ten miners were kidnapped by gunmen from a remote colliery before being taken to nearby hills where most were shot dead. Some were beheaded, said officials who did not want to be named.
The community’s refusal to bury the bodies is symbolic in Muslim-majority Pakistan, where according to Islamic culture people should be buried within 24 hours, before the next sunset.
"This is systematic ethnic cleansing of Hazaras in Balochistan and our security forces are behaving like lame ducks, doing nothing,” said Zainab Ahman, an activist among the mourners.
Ethnic Hazaras make up most of the Shia population in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan -- the country’s largest and poorest region, rife with ethnic, sectarian and separatist insurgencies.
Their Central Asian features make them easy targets for takfiri militants who deludedly consider them heretics.
Two ministers, representing Prime Minister Imran Khan, flew to Quetta on Wednesday to try to convince the mourners to end the protest. Khan tweeted that the government was taking steps to prevent such attacks, but gave no details.
"Please bury your loved ones so their souls find peace,” he added.
Two of the miners were Afghans and their bodies returned home for burial, a local security official told AFP.
The attack was claimed by terrorist group Daesh, according to SITE Intelligence, which monitors takfiri activities worldwide.
Daesh is affiliated with the local militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which itself had links to Pakistan’s Taliban.
Pakistani officials have long denied the presence of Daesh in the country, but the group has claimed a number of attacks including a bombing at a vegetable market in 2019.