KABUL — The Taliban have urged Afghan imams to call for unity in their first Friday prayers since the Islamist group took control of the country, as protests against the takeover spread to others cities on Thursday, including the capital Kabul.
Several people were killed when Islamic fighters fired into a crowd in the eastern city of Asadabad, a witness said. Another witness reported gunfire near a rally in Kabul, but it appears Taliban fired in the air.
On the day Afghanistan celebrated its independence from British control in 1919, video on social media showed a crowd of men and women in Kabul waving black, red and green national flags.
“Our flag, our identity,” they shouted.
At some protests elsewhere, the media reported that people had torn down the Taliban’s white flag.
A Taliban spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.
Some protests were small, but combined with the desperate uproar of thousands trying to flee the country, they underscore the challenge the Taliban face in government.
Kabul was largely calm, but 12 people were killed in and around the airport, NATO and Taliban officials said.
The U.S. military said more than 5,200 U.S. troops were guarding Kabul airport, where several gates to the facility are now open, while U.S. warplanes flew over the city to provide security for the evacuation of diplomats and civilians, including some Afghan citizens.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said 6,000 “fully treated” people were currently at Kabul airport and would soon be boarding planes.
A source told Reuters that White House officials told a congressional briefing that the United States had already evacuated 6,741 people, including 1,792 American citizens and lawful permanent residents.
Taliban moderate approach
The Taliban quickly took over Afghanistan as US and foreign troops retreated, surprising even their own leaders and leaving a power vacuum in many places.
The new regime called for unity ahead of Friday prayers and urged imams to persuade people not to leave Afghanistan.
Since taking Kabul on Sunday, the Taliban are more moderate, they want peace, they don’t want revenge on former enemies and they respect women’s rights under Islamic law.
When in power from 1996 to 2001, they severely restricted women’s rights, staged public executions and blew up ancient Buddhist statues. They were driven out during a US-led invasion in 2001.