Several people were killed in the Afghan city of Asadabad on Thursday when Taliban fighters fired at people waving the national flag during an Independence Day demonstration, a witness said, a day after three people were killed in a similar protest.
The protests by people waving the Afghan flag, in some cases after the downing of white Taliban flags according to the media, are the first signs of popular resistance against the Taliban since their astonishing advance across the country and the conquest of the capital Kabul on Sunday.
It was unclear whether the casualties in Asadabad were the result of the shooting or the stampede it caused, witness Mohammed Salim said from the eastern city, the capital of Kunar province.
“Hundreds of people took to the streets,” Salim said. “At first I was scared and didn’t want to go, but when I saw one of my neighbors join in, I raised the flag I have at home.”
“Several people were killed and injured in the stampede and shelling by the Taliban.”
A Taliban spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
There were also protests but no reports of serious violence in the eastern city of Jalalabad and a district of Paktia province, media reported.
Afghanistan celebrates its independence from British control in 1919 on August 19.
On Wednesday, Taliban fighters fired on protesters waving the black, red and green national flags in Jalalabad, killing three, witnesses and media reported.
Media reported on Wednesday of similar scenes in Asadabad and another eastern city, Khost, with protesters lowering the Taliban’s white Islamic flag in some places.
First Vice President Amrullah Saleh, who is trying to mobilize opposition to the Taliban, expressed support for the protests.
“Greet those who carry the national flag and thus stand for the dignity of the nation,” he said on Twitter.
Saleh said Tuesday he was in Afghanistan and served as the “legitimate interim president” after President Ashraf Ghani fled when the Taliban took Kabul.
Call for an end to the crowds at the airport
The crackdown on protests will cast new doubts on the Taliban’s assurances that they have changed since their rule in 1996-2001, when they severely restricted women, staged public executions and blew up ancient Buddhist statues.
They now say they want peace, will not retaliate against old enemies and would respect women’s rights within the framework of Islamic law.
While Kabul has been generally calm since Taliban forces entered on Sunday, chaos reigned at the airport as people rushed to find a way out of the country.
Twelve people have since died in and around the airport, a NATO and a Taliban official said. The deaths were caused by gunfire or stampedes, the Taliban official said.
He urged people who do not have the legal right to travel to go home. “We don’t want to hurt anyone at the airport,” said the Taliban official, who declined to be identified.
The United States and other Western powers continued to evacuate their nationals and some of their Afghan employees from the capital’s airport, from which about 8,000 people have flown out since Sunday, a Western security official said.
Under a pact negotiated last year by the administration of former President Donald Trump, the United States agreed to withdraw its troops in exchange for a guarantee from the Taliban that they would not let Afghanistan be used for terrorist attacks.
The Taliban also agreed not to attack foreign troops when they left.
President Joe Biden said U.S. troops would remain until the American evacuation was completed, even if that meant exceeding the August 31 U.S. withdrawal deadline.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NewsMadura staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)