The Taliban celebrated Afghanistan’s Independence Day on Thursday by declaring they beat the US – and shooting at a crowd of protesters.
The demonstrators took to the streets in the first popular opposition to the new rulers on the day the country celebrates its 1919 independence from British control.
“Our flag our identity,” a group of men and some women shouted in Kabul as they waved black, red and green national flags, Reuters reported.
In Asadabad, the capital of Kunar province, several people were killed during a rally, however, it was not immediately clear if the deaths resulted from the firing or from the ensuing stampede, witness Mohammed Salim told the news outlet
“Hundreds of people came out on the streets,” Salim said. “At first I was scared and didn’t want to go but when I saw one of my neighbors joined in I took out the flag I have at home.”
He added: “Several people were killed and injured in the stampede and firing by the Taliban.”
Thursday’s deadly protests came after three protesters waving a flag were reportedly shot dead by the Taliban in the eastern city of Jalalabad Wednesday.
First Vice President Amrullah Saleh, who is trying to rally opposition to the Taliban, expressed support for the protesters.
“Salute those who carry the national flag and thus stand for dignity of the nation,” tweeted Saleh, who on Tuesday said he was in Afghanistan and the “legitimate caretaker president” after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.
Meanwhile, twelve people have been killed in and around Kabul Airport since the Taliban overran the capital on Sunday, a NATO and a Taliban official said. The deaths were caused either by gunshots or by stampedes, according to the Taliban official.
The Taliban face a host of challenges as they assume leadership of the nation of some 38 million people.
Opposition figures gathering in the last area of the country not under Taliban rule talked of launching an armed resistance under the banner of the Northern Alliance, which allied with the US during the 2001 invasion after 9/11.
It was unclear how serious a threat they posed given that the Taliban swept through nearly the entire country in just days with little resistance from Afghan forces.
Many fear the insurgents will succeed in erasing two decades of efforts to expand women’s and human rights and remake the country.
The Taliban, who have offered no specifics on how they will lead other than to say they will be guided by Shariah, or Islamic, law, are in talks with senior officials of previous Afghan governments.
But they face an increasingly precarious situation.
“A humanitarian crisis of incredible proportions is unfolding before our eyes,” warned Mary Ellen McGroarty, the head of the World Food Program in Afghanistan.
Beyond the difficulties of importing food, she said that drought has seen over 40 percent of the country’s crop lost. Many who fled the Taliban advance now live in parks and open spaces in the capital.
“This is really Afghanistan’s hour of greatest need, and we urge the international community to stand by the Afghan people at this time,” she said.
With Post wires