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Taliban fires into the air to disperse a protest in Kabul, arrests journalists

Afghans shouting slogans during an anti-Pakistan demonstration
Afghans shout slogans during an anti-Pakistan demonstration near the Pakistani Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Tuesday.
(Wali Sabawoon / Associated Press)

The Taliban fired into the air Tuesday to disperse protesters and arrested several journalists, the second time in less than a week that the group has used heavy-handed tactics to break up a demonstration in the Afghan capital.

The demonstrators had gathered outside the Pakistani Embassy in Kabul to accuse Islamabad of aiding the Taliban’s assault on northern Panjshir province. The Taliban said Monday that it had seized the province — the last not in its control — after the group’s blitz through Afghanistan last month.

Afghanistan’s previous government routinely accused Pakistan of aiding the Taliban, an allegation Islamabad has denied. Former Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh, one of the leaders of the anti-Taliban resistance, has long been an outspoken critic of neighboring Pakistan.

Dozens of women were among the protesters Tuesday. Some of them carried signs bemoaning the killing of their sons by Taliban fighters who they say were aided by Pakistan. One sign read: “I am a mother — when you kill my son you kill a part of me.”

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On Saturday, Taliban special forces troops in camouflage fired their weapons into the air to end a protest march in the capital by Afghan women demanding equal rights from the new rulers.

The Taliban again moved quickly and harshly to end Tuesday’s protest when it arrived near the presidential palace. Taliban fighters fired their weapons into the air and arrested several journalists covering the demonstration. In one case, militants waving Kalashnikov rifles took a microphone from a journalist and began beating him with it, breaking the microphone. The journalist was later handcuffed and detained for several hours.

In Afghanistan, the Biden administration must figure out how to deal diplomatically and politically with what will be a Taliban-led government.

“This is the third time I have been beaten by the Taliban covering protests,” the journalist told the Associated Press on condition he not be identified because he was afraid of retaliation. “I won’t go again to cover a demonstration. It’s too difficult for me.”

A journalist from Afghanistan’s popular TOLO News was detained for three hours by the Taliban before being freed along with his equipment and the video of the demonstration, which remained intact.

There was no immediate comment from the Taliban.

Meanwhile, in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, four aircraft chartered to evacuate about 2,000 Afghans fleeing Taliban rule were still at the airport.

Taliban fighters rough up two journalists, then seek to make amends by offering water and a sports drink.

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Mawlawi Abdullah Mansour, the Taliban official in charge of the city’s airport, said any passenger, Afghan or foreign, with a passport and valid visa would be allowed to leave. Most of the passengers are believed to be Afghans without proper travel documents.

None of the passengers had arrived at the airport. Instead, organizers apparently told evacuees to travel to Mazar-e-Sharif and find accommodation until they were called to come to the airport.


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