Thousands of people took to the streets of eastern Afghanistan Friday to protest against the killing of 27 civilians by Taliban insurgents.
Afghan demonstrators shout anti- Taliban slogans during a protest of this week's execution of 26 young men from their community who were killed by Taliban militants in Maiwand district of Kandahar province in the south, in Materlam the provincial capital of Laghman province east of Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, Oct. 24, 2008. The unprecedented protest in the eastern Laghman province is one of the largest anti-Taliban gatherings since the fall of the hard-line Islamist regime following the U.S. invasion in late 2001. (AP Photo by Nesar Ahmad)
Witnesses said the victims, some as young as 15, were ordered off a bus by armed gunmen in the troubled Kandahar province on October 14 as they travelled to Iran in search of work.
Survivors told how they were lined up in small groups and shot at the roadside.
A spokesman for the Taliban later claimed responsibility for the killings, saying the men were Afghan security force recruits.
Protesters on Friday chanted "Death to the barbarian Taliban and Americans" as they took to streets in Mihtarlam, the capital of Lahgman province in the east of the country.
"They were innocent civilians who wanted jobs and were on their way to Iran. They were killed. This is barbaric," protester Mujeeb-ul-Rehman told AFP.
Organizers said more than 10,000 people attended the rally to protest against what they called an "un-Islamic" act.
Local officials put the number at around 2,000.
Authorities investigating the deadly attack say they found only 12 bodies, which were flown to the capital, Kabul, on Wednesday by the Afghan army.
These bodies were later driven to Mihtarlam to be handed over to families.
Friday's protest came the day after governor Lutfullah Mashal declared a province-wide day of mourning.
Insurgents frequently stop and search vehicles as they pass through the troubled southern provinces on the main highway linking Kabul to the Iranian border.