Thousands of people marched through an eastern Afghan town Thursday shouting "Die terrorists" to protest against the Taliban for allegedly killing a top Muslim cleric in a mosque bombing, officials said.
It was one of the biggest anti-Taliban demonstrations since U.S.-led forces ousted the fundamentalist regime in late 2001 for harboring Osama bin Laden. The demonstration occurred in Khost province, an area plagued by insurgent violence.
Mohammed Ayob, the region's police chief, said "thousands and thousands of people" had filled the small town's streets, alleyways and a downtown square.
Mohammed Akbar Zadran, a government district chief, put the number of protesters at 4,000.
"People are shouting, 'Die terrorists! Die terrorists!"' he said. "They are demanding the government protect the clerics so no more are killed."
Cleric Mohammad Khan was killed last Friday when a bomb exploded in his mosque in Khost. Some 18 other worshippers were wounded. Khan actively supported President Hamid Karzai's U.S.-backed government and often denounced the Taliban.
Since his death, two other pro-government clerics have been shot dead by suspected Taliban rebels.
Their deaths were latest in a string of attacks on Afghanistan's Muslim leaders. The most-senior cleric to have been killed was Abdul Fayaz, the Muslim leader in southern Afghanistan who was slain in May. At his funeral a few days after his killing, a suicide bombing left 20 people dead, reports the AP. I.L.