KABUL, Afghanistan â?? A campaign of kidnappings against the Hazara ethnic group intensified on Saturday as gunmen stopped a number of buses along Afghanistanâ??s main highway and separated out the Hazara passengers, officials said.

By morning, amongst 14 and 30 Hazara passengers had been seized along a stretch of Highway 1 in Zabul Province, in the south of the country, and taken away, three safety officials stated, every citing a diverse number of kidnapped folks.

There have been several episodes this year involving Hazara motorists and bus passengers. Even though some of these kidnapped have been released right after negotiations, others have been killed: This month, militants affiliated with the Islamic State are believed to have beheaded seven Hazara captives, amongst them a 9-year-old girl.

The governmentâ??s powerlessness to quit kidnappings along the countryâ??s primary highway â?? or to return the captives to safety â?? presents a growing political crisis to the presidency of Ashraf Ghani, just more than a year old. Right after the seven captives were killed this month, thousands of mostly Hazara protesters carried the coffins to the presidential palace, in what was the biggest political demonstration in Kabul in years. Guards shot and wounded as several as 10 protesters as some of them scaled walls to enter a palace parking lot.

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It was not identified whether the Islamic State or the Taliban were behind the kidnappings on Saturday. Both organizations have targeted Hazaras in the previous.

â??Security forces are investigating the case and will uncover out who kidnapped them,â? Assadullah Kakar, a member of Zabulâ??s provincial council, said on Saturday.

A driver of one of the buses that were stopped, who gave his name as Shawali, stated that six or seven militants climbed aboard and began pulling Hazara passengers out of their seats.

â??They were quite angry and treating passengers like animals,â? he said. â??They were telling passengers not to talk as they eagerly looked for Hazara individuals.â?

Just last month, the leading American basic in Afghanistan, John F. Campbell, testified to a House committee about the state of safety in Afghanistan and claimed that Afghans â??continue to have, as I stated, freedom of movement on Highway 1.â?

But for Hazaras, bus trips down that highway are a supply of dread. This year alone, as several as 31 Hazaras had been abducted in a single episode, said Hassan Raza Yusufi, a Hazara member of the provincial council in Ghazni, which sits along Highway 1. Mr. Yusufi said there had been at least 5 other kidnappings of Hazaras along the portion of Highway 1 between Kabul and Kandahar this year.

â??We blame the government for not taking sufficient security measures on the highways to protect its men and women,â? Mr. Yusufi said.

The governmentâ??s poor record of securing the release of kidnapped Hazaras is yet another sign of its restricted â?? and receding â?? authority in components of the nation. This month, the fate of the seven beheaded Hazara victims was discovered not by government forces but by the Taliban fighters who had been advancing into a element of Zabul Province held by militants loyal to the Islamic State. Taliban fighters arranged for a truck driver to take the bodies to a government hospital.

Hazaras, historically Afghanistanâ??s most persecuted ethnic group, account for probably five to ten % of the countryâ??s population, although statistics on demographics here are frequently based on estimates or guesswork. Hazaras are mostly Shiite in an overwhelmingly Sunni nation, and Afghans of other ethnicities have long pilloried them as outsiders, possibly descendants of the Mongol invaders who as soon as swept through the region. They faced persecution and campaigns of murder in the course of years of Taliban rule.

This most current wave of violence against them comes right after a decade of upward mobility. Considering that the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Hazaras have turn into well represented in the countryâ??s universities and have obtained a degree of political energy that has historically eluded them.

But the rise in kidnappings might be major numerous Hazaras to question their future in Afghanistan. As Afghans have joined the migrant trail to Europe, Hazaras are stated to be leaving at a disproportionate rate, though statistical proof is nonexistent.