KABUL, Afghanistan — A public outpouring of grief mixed with patriotic anger whipped through Afghanistan on Monday in the aftermath of the killings of 21 Afghan soldiers by Taliban insurgents in Kunar province.
Flown into Kabul by helicopter, the victims' bodies were laid in repose at the military hospital, in coffins draped with the Afghan flag and topped with bouquets of plastic flowers.
"The uniforms your brothers and sons wore were actually their burial shrouds," Defense Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi told family members at the service, a day after the attack. "We will follow their path and defend their blood."
Much of the public anger was directed at President Hamid Karzai, who condemned the attack "in the strongest possible terms."
But complaints about Karzai have been piling up on social media, with a frequent theme being that the president had been partial toward the Taliban, calling their fighters "brothers" and their dead "martyrs," while doing little for Afghan soldiers.
Karzai spokeswoman Adela Raz said he had consistently referred to the Afghan soldiers as "martyrs" and had ordered their families treated with respect.
As a passive protest, numerous Afghan Facebook users changed their profile photographs to pictures of Afghan soldiers. Many who did not found themselves accused of unpatriotic behavior.
People seemed particularly outraged by the manner of the soldiers' deaths. All were reportedly shot in their sleep after Taliban insurgents overran their base in the Ghaziabad district on Sunday morning. It was the deadliest attack against the Afghan National Army since 2010.