Challenge to Taliban rule

Flag-waving protesters marched in some Afghan cities yesterday as popular opposition to the Taliban spread, and several people were thought to have been killed.

“Our flag, our identity,” a crowd of men and women waving national flags shouted in Kabul on the day Afghanistan celebrated its 1919 independence from British control.

The Taliban have presented a moderate face to the world since arriving in Kabul on Sunday, saying they want peace, that they will not take revenge against old enemies and will respect women’s rights according to the tenets of Islamic law.

In Asadabad, capital of the eastern province of Kunar, several people were killed during a rally, but it was not clear if the casualties resulted from Taliban shooting or from a stampede it triggered.

Protesters also took to the streets of Jalalabad and a district in Paktia province, also in the east.

First Vice President Amrullah Saleh, who is trying to rally opposition to the Taliban, expressed support for the protests. Saleh said he was the “legitimate caretaker president” after President Ashraf Ghani fled as the Taliban took Kabul.

And Amad Massoud, leader of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan based in the long-time anti-Taliban stronghold of the Panjshir Valley, northeast of Kabul, called for foreign support as he readied to take on the Taliban.

He wrote in The Washington Post that he was set “to follow in my father’s footsteps, with mujahideen fighters who are prepared to once again take on the Taliban.”

His father was Amhad Shah Massoud, a guerrilla leader assassinated by al-Qaeda militants in 2001.

While Kabul has been generally calm since Taliban forces arrived, the airport has been in chaos as people rush for a way out of the country.

Twelve people have been killed in and around the airport, with the deaths caused either by shooting or stampedes.

The United States and other western powers pressed on with evacuation of their nationals and Afghan staffs.

REUTERS

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