Reuters – At least three people were killed in anti-Taliban protests in the Afghan city of Jalalabad on Wednesday, witnesses said, as the militant group moved to create a government and Western countries ramped up evacuations from a chaotic Kabul airport.
The deaths mar the Taliban’s efforts to consolidate Islamist rule and their promises of peace following their sweep into the capital. They have said they will not take revenge against old enemies and will respect the rights of women within the framework of Islamic law.
The witnesses said the deaths in Jalalabad took place when local residents tried to install Afghanistan’s national flag at a square in the city, some 150 km (90 miles) from the capital on the main road to Pakistan.
There were also more than a dozen people injured after Taliban militants opened fire on protesters in the eastern city, two witnesses and a former police official told Reuters.
Taliban spokesmen were not immediately reachable for comment.
Thousands of Afghans, many of whom helped U.S.-led foreign forces over two decades, are desperate to leave the country and people are flooding to Kabul airport.
Taliban commanders and soldiers fired into the air on Wednesday to disperse the crowds outside the airport, a Taliban official said. “We have no intention to injure anyone,” he told Reuters.
Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani is in the United Arab Emirates, the Gulf state’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday, after he left the country as Taliban fighters seized control.
About 5,000 diplomats, security staff, aid workers and Afghans have been evacuated from Kabul in the last 24 hours, a Western official told Reuters on Wednesday.
The evacuations by military flights will continue around the clock, he said, adding that clearing the chaos outside the airport was a challenge.
“It’s absolutely hectic and chaos out there.” the official said.
(For a graphic on the airport chaos, click on: https://tmsnrt.rs/3stVpcj)
ACTIONS NOT WORDS
One of the Taliban’s leaders and co-founders, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, returned to Afghanistan for the first time in more than 10 years and a Taliban official said the leaders would show themselves to the world, unlike in the past when they lived in secret.
“Slowly, gradually, the world will see all our leaders,” the senior Taliban official told Reuters.
The Taliban’s first news briefing since their return to Kabul suggested they would impose their laws more softly than during their harsh 1996-2001 rule.
Women would be allowed to work and study and “will be very active in society but within the framework of Islam”, Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s main spokesman, said.
During their rule, also guided by sharia religious law, women were prevented from working, girls were not allowed to go to school and women had to wear all-enveloping burqas to go out.
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told reporters on Wednesday: “We’ll see what they do, whether it will be according to the pronouncements that they made.”
Echoing that comment and those of other Western leaders, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Taliban would be judged on their actions.
“We will judge this regime based on the choices it makes, and by its actions rather than by its words, on its attitude to terrorism, to crime and narcotics, as well as humanitarian access and the rights of girls to receive an education,” he told parliament, recalled from summer recess to debate the crisis.
(Reporting by Kabul newsroom Writing by Robert Birsel and Jane Merriman; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Nick Macfie, Catherine Evans and Gareth Jones)