Afghanistan: Taliban fire warning shots at protest in Kabul

The Taliban have fired warning shots to disperse the crowd at a large protest in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

Video footage from the scene shows people running to safety, while heavy gunfire can be heard in the background.

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets on Tuesday to denounce Taliban rule and demand women’s rights.

Protesters also chanted anti-Pakistan slogans, as many believe neighbouring Pakistan supports the Taliban, which the country denies.

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A video sent to the BBC shows Taliban fighters firing their guns into the air – a move the group banned last week after several people were reported killed after celebratory aerial fire.

Guards at a nearby bank opened its basement car park to dozens of women who sheltered from the gunfire for about 20 minutes, one of the protesters told the BBC.

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Some journalists, including the BBC’s team, were prevented from filming at the rally. Afghanistan’s Tolo news agency reported that its cameraman was arrested and detained by the Taliban for nearly three hours.

A former government official, who asked to remain anonymous, told the BBC that Taliban members were taking close-up photos of leading protesters, possibly to help identify them later.

Women have been protesting for the past week, but on Tuesday men also joined their calls for equality and safety. Many observers had commented that there were few men at the previous women-led rallies.

The protesters were heard chanting “long live the resistance” and “death to Pakistan” as they marched.

“The Islamic government is shooting at our poor people,” one woman at the protest told Reuters news agency.

Another protester, Sarah Fahim, told AFP news agency: “Afghan women want their country to be free. They want their country to be rebuilt. We are tired… We want that all our people have normal lives. How long shall we live in this situation?”

The demonstrations come one day after Ahmad Massoud, the leader of anti-Taliban fighters in Afghanistan’s Panjshir Valley, called for a “national uprising” by civilians against the militants.

Many protesters showed support for the resistance forces, who say they are still fighting off the Taliban in Panjshir.

The Taliban on Monday claimed victory in the province – the final pocket of territory which has remained outside their rule.

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Anger directed at Taliban and Pakistan
By Secunder Kermani, BBC Pakistan and Afghanistan correspondent in Kabul

The mood amongst the protesters was one of real anger, directed predominantly at Pakistan but also against the Taliban.

Large numbers of young women were among the crowd. One, chanting “death to Pakistan”, alleged the country’s air force had bombed Panjshir, the province where resistance forces have been holding out against the Taliban.

Pakistan has dismissed those claims, but is widely seen as having long supported the Taliban’s insurgency. Many in Afghanistan have long deeply resented what they see as Pakistani interference – a feeling exacerbated recently by the visit to Kabul of the head of Pakistan’s intelligence services, the ISI.

Taliban members in police vehicles initially drove alongside the protesters, not preventing them from demonstrating. However, they later fired volleys of bullets into the air to disperse the crowd, and stopped us and other journalists from filming further.

These protests are the biggest challenge to the Taliban’s authority we have seen so far in Kabul, and include bold and direct criticism of the group. One young woman said, “We demand freedom of speech, democracy… I’m not afraid of death.”

 

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