Taliban fire shots to disperse protests in Kabul
Many in the capital fearful of a repeat of the group's previous brutal repressive reign
The Taliban on Tuesday fired shots into the air to disperse hundreds of people who had gathered at several rallies in Kabul, the latest signs of defiance by Afghans against the movement which swept to power last month.
Afghanistan's new rulers have yet to form a government, but many in the capital are fearful of a repeat of the Taliban's previous brutal and repressive reign between 1996 and 2001.
At least three rallies were held across Kabul in a show of resistance that would have been unthinkable during the Taliban's last stint in power.
"Afghan women want their country to be free. They want their country to be rebuilt. We are tired," protester Sarah Fahim told AFP at one rally outside the Pakistani embassy, where more than 70 people, mostly women, had gathered.
"We want that all our people have normal lives. How long shall we live in this situation?" the 25-year-old said.
The crowd held up banners and chanted about their frustrations with security, free passage out of the country.
Another protester, Zahra Mohammadi, a doctor from Kabul, said: "We want Afghanistan to become free. We want freedom."
Scattered demonstrations have also been held in smaller cities in recent days, including in Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif where women have demanded to be part of a new government.
General Mobin, a Taliban official in charge of security in the capital, told AFP he had been called to the scene by Taliban guards who said that "women were creating a disruption".
"These protesters are gathered based only on the conspiracy of foreign intelligence," he claimed.
An Afghan journalist covering the demonstration told AFP his press ID and camera were confiscated by the Taliban.
"I was kicked and told to go away," he said.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Taliban had reiterated a pledge to allow Afghans to freely depart Afghanistan.
The Taliban told the United States that "they will let people with travel documents freely depart", Blinken told a news conference in Doha where he and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin met their Qatari opposite numbers.
US President Joe Biden has faced mounting pressure amid reports that several hundred people, including Americans, have been prevented for a week from flying out of an airport in northern Afghanistan.
Tuesday's demonstrations come after the Taliban claimed total control over Afghanistan a day earlier, saying they had won the key battle for the Panjshir Valley.
As the hardliners claimed victory on Monday, their chief spokesman warned against any further attempts to rise up against their rule.
"Anyone who tries to start an insurgency will be hit hard. We will not allow another," Zabihullah Mujahid said at a press conference in Kabul.
Afghanistan's new rulers have pledged to be more "inclusive" than during their first stint in power, with a government that represents the country's complex ethnic makeup - though women are unlikely to be included.
The Taliban are also grappling with looming financial and humanitarian crises.
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