Protests against the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan have spread to more cities, including the capital Kabul, and armed groups have called on the country’s imams to urge unity in Friday prayers for the first time since they seized control.
Witnesses told Al Jazeera that the Taliban opened fire on a crowd in Asadabad in eastern Kunar province on Thursday, killing at least two people.
It is not clear whether the casualties were caused by the Taliban’s fire or stampede.
“Hundreds of people took to the streets,” eyewitness Mohamed Salim told Reuters. “At first I was scared and didn’t want to go, but when I saw one of my neighbors join in, I took out the banner of my house.
“Several people were killed and injured in the stampede and firing by the Taliban.”
A video posted on social media showed that on the day Afghanistan celebrated its independence from British control in 1919, a group of men and women in Kabul chanted “Our flag, our identity” and waved red and green national flags.
The marchers chanted “God is the greatest”. In some protests elsewhere, the media reported that people had torn up the white flag of the Taliban.
Al Jazeera’s Charlotte Bellis reported from Kabul that the Taliban were “shooting people…for about a minute, with violent volleys of gunfire”.
“Someone tried to climb the mountain to raise the old Afghan flag, but was repelled by heavy artillery fire. I could see the dust rising from the mountain, and they climbed back to the mountain,” Bellis said.
“With this kind of resistance, many people are disturbed by the fact that the flag of the Republic has been removed in many places and the Taliban flag has been raised in its place.”
The Taliban urged unity before Friday prayers and called on all imams in Kabul and the provinces to persuade people not to try to leave the country.
Since the capture of Kabul on Sunday, the Taliban have shown a more moderate face, saying they want peace, will not retaliate against their old enemies, and will respect women’s rights within the framework of Islamic law.
During the Taliban’s rule from 1996 to 2001, women’s rights were severely restricted, executed in public, and ancient Buddha statues were blown up.
Protests broke out in the eastern city of Jalalabad and an area in Paktia province.
According to eyewitnesses and media reports, on Wednesday, Taliban militants opened fire on protesters waving flags in Jalalabad, killing three people.
A NATO official and a Taliban official told Reuters that Kabul is generally calm, but in the chaotic scene, 12 people have been killed inside and outside the airport. According to Taliban officials, the deaths were caused by shooting or trampling.
In an incident captured on social media, a little girl was hung over the high wall of an airport and handed it to an American soldier, showing the despair of people trying to escape.
According to Ariane News in Afghanistan, an Afghan national team football player fell from an American plane at Kabul Airport to his death on Monday when he saw crowds of people trying to board a moving plane.
A Taliban official stated that the Taliban “kept on their promises” by providing support to foreign forces to evacuate their nationals.
The official told Reuters: “We provide safe exit routes not only for foreigners but also for Afghans.”
Bayliss said the Taliban were “at a loss” over the thousands of Afghans who had gathered at the airport trying to flee the country.
Bayliss said that the Taliban had closed the airport roads, set up checkpoints, and had been shooting into the air in an attempt to drive people back.
“Now they have expanded the border [around the airport]; Hope they can control this situation,” Bayliss said.
“When talking with the Taliban, they said:’When this is an American project, why let us control the airport and manage all these evacuees? They should communicate better by themselves to ensure that people understand whether they have the right to continue. Boarding? These flights, if not.'”
A Western security official said that since Sunday, about 8,000 people have been airlifted out of Kabul.
Al Jazeera reporter Mike Hanna reported in Washington, DC that getting 16,000 Americans and an unknown number of Afghans to leave the country is a “huge challenge.”
“Some text messages have been sent to some people, including Afghan green card holders in Kabul, telling them that they must go to the airport to apply for a visa before they can evacuate… Currently this is almost impossible,” Hannah said. .
According to an agreement negotiated by the administration of former President Donald Trump, the United States agreed to withdraw its troops in exchange for the Taliban’s guarantee not to attack leaving foreign troops or allow Afghanistan to be used in violent attacks.
Biden stated that the U.S. military will continue to stay until all Americans are evacuated, even if it means staying after the U.S. withdrawal deadline on August 31.