At least three people were killed late Wednesday when the Taliban opened fire on protesters who were carrying the Afghan flag and demanding an end to Taliban rule in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.
“Three people were killed and more than a dozen injured after Taliban militants opened fire during protests against the group in the Afghan city of Jalalabad on Wednesday,” according to sources on the ground that spoke to Reuters. “A Taliban source said one person had been killed in the city, some 150 km (90 miles) to the east of Kabul.”
The Taliban has pulled down the Afghan flag in cities across Afghanistan as it moved to recapture territory lost in the two-decades-long war with coalition forces. In cities like Kabul, the Taliban has replaced the Afghan flag with its own flag, a white banner bearing the group’s motto.
“Video footage shot by Pajhwok Afghan News, a local news agency, showed protesters in the city who were carrying the Afghan flag fleeing with the sound of gunshots in the background,” the outlet reported.
The Taliban has denied that it caused the Jalalabad deaths, but sources indicate that the group has returned to cracking down on Afghan citizens despite assurances to the international community that it has changed in the 20 years it was out of power. In Jalalabad, Taliban fighters claimed that the protesters were “exploiting” the group’s newfound restraint.
“There were some troublemakers who wanted to create issues for us,” one militant told media in Jalalabad, per Reuters. “These people are exploiting our relaxed policies.”
Issues with the Taliban continued into Kabul, where forces had allegedly agreed to allow foreign nationals and Afghans with the correct paperwork into Kabul airport, where the U.S. military and other coalition groups were organizing evacuation flights. Reuters also reported Wednesday that it appears the Taliban was not abiding by its agreements.
“Armed members of the Taliban kept people desperate to flee Afghanistan from reaching Kabul’s airport on Wednesday, witnesses said, while President Joe Biden vowed to keep U.S. troops in the country until all Americans are evacuated,” the outlet said.
The United States, which, through President Joe Biden, vowed to maintain a presence in Afghanistan until all Americans, at least, are evacuated, has so far evacuated around 2,000 people. The U.S. government estimates that there are around 10,000 to 15,000 Americans in the country, most in or near Kabul, and another 40,000 Afghans who are cleared to leave Afghanistan for either the United States or a safe third country.
Getting people out, though, the Daily Mail noted, has become a “logistical nightmare” with Afghans scrambling to be included in the evacuation flights, often preventing those with the correct paperwork from boarding planes, which are taking off partly empty.
The U.S. military was reportedly forced, Wednesday night, to fire warning shots and tear gas near the crowds to control the mayhem. American journalists, who are reporting from just outside the airport gates, are being repeatedly questioned by Taliban security, often on air. An ABC News crew was harassed by Taliban fighters on Wednesday, despite having the proper paperwork and being approved by the local warlord.
— Good Morning America (@GMA) August 19, 2021
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