Jalalabad: ‘Three dead’ as Taliban open fire during defiant protests in defence of Afghan flag

Dozens of protesters in Afghanistan’s eastern city Jalalabad came out on the streets to protest the Taliban takeover

Taliban open fire during defiant protests in defence of Afghan flag

At least three people are believed to have died after Taliban gunmen opened fire to break up a protest in Jalalabad on Wednesday, where scores of people had to the streets in a rare show of dissent against the militant group’s takeover of Afghanistan, raising Afghan national flags.

Dozens of protesters in the eastern city had taken to the streets to protest the way the Taliban has taken the country by force and to defend the national flag, which the group’s fighters removed from the presidential palace after it was vacated by fleeing President Ashraf Ghani.

Local resident Salim Ahmad told the Associated Press that Taliban members had fired into the air to disperse the crowd, but a witness told Reuters at least three people died in the shooting and ensuing chaos. Al Jazeera reported that around a dozen others were injured.

Since they started to make sweeping territorial gains across the country last month, the Taliban have been replacing the Afghan national flag with their own banner, a white background with an Islamic inscription in black.

The Taliban leadership have promised a general “amnesty” for those who opposed it in government during the past 20 years and say they will not carry out reprisal attacks.

But in another incident of violence on the streets on Wednesday, Taliban forces blew up the statue of a Shiite military leader who fought against the armed group in Afghanistan’s civil war in the 1990s, according to local reports.

Continuing to strengthen its grip on the country three days after sweeping into Kabul, Taliban militants with long guns were seen patrolling neighbourhoods of the capital, including areas in the so-called Green Zone that is home to many embassies as well as mansions of the Afghan elite.

The group’s successful military campaign to take control of the country has triggered panic and chaos as many rushed to flee, fearing a humanitarian crisis and the return of draconian Taliban rule. There are widespread fears for the rights of women, children and minorities under the ultra-conservative Islamist group, though it has given some limited assurances on this front.

As it seeks to avoid making Afghanistan into a pariah state, the Taliban has claimed it will form an “inclusive government, allow women to work and preserve their rights”. In its rule prior to the US-led invasion in 2001, the Taliban quashed women’s rights, banned TV and music and carried out public executions by stoning.

The chaotic withdrawal of Western forces and the Taliban’s takeover in Kabul has prompted countries around the world to pull out their diplomatic staff and other citizens as quickly as they can, mainly through Kabul airport - which remains under US control.

There is likely to be a major exodus of refugees from the country, with many Afghans also trying to flee. The British government committed on Wednesday to take in 5,000 Afghan refugees this year, primarily women and children.

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