ISLAMABAD - Local tribal elders have secured the release of 17 passengers abducted by the Taliban in northern Afghanistan Wednesday evening.

The people had been kidnapped as they traveled by bus from Balkh district of Sar-e-Pul province to the provincial capital.

According to a press release from The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, or UNAMA, the passengers were from the Hazara community.

Zabihullah Amani, the spokesman from the office of Sar-e-Pul’s governor, said the abductees were released Thursday night.

Earlier this week, the Taliban had abducted almost 200 passengers from Kunduz province and executed 17 of them.

UNAMA’s press release had also condemned the “spate of abductions, hostage-taking and summary executions carried out in recent days against passengers travelling in civilian vehicles.”

Several hundred protesters gathered in Kabul Thursday to demonstrate against Taliban abductions and killings.