The Taliban violently broke up a protest in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing at least one person as they quashed a rare public show of dissent. The militant group meanwhile met with former officials from the toppled Western-backed government.
As officials work to shape a future government, the United Arab Emirates acknowledged that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who fled the Taliban advance, and his family were in that country.
The Taliban’s every action in their sudden sweep to power is being watched closely. They insist they have changed and won’t impose the same draconian restrictions they did when they last ruled Afghanistan, all but eliminating women’s rights, carrying out public executions and harboring al-Qaida in the years before the 9/11 attacks.
But many Afghans remain deeply skeptical, and the violent response to Wednesday’s protest could only fuel their fears. Thousands are racing to the airport and borders to flee the country. Many others are hiding inside their homes, fearful after prisons and armories were emptied during the insurgents’ blitz across the country.
Dozens of people gathered in the eastern city of Jalalabad to raise the national flag a day before Afghanistan’s Independence Day, which commemorates the end of British rule in 1919.
They lowered the Taliban flag — a white banner with an Islamic inscription — that the militants have raised in the areas they captured. Video footage later showed the Taliban firing into the air and attacking people with batons to disperse the crowd. Babrak Amirzada, a reporter for a local news agency, said he and a TV cameraman from another agency were beaten by the Taliban as they tried to cover the unrest.
A local health official said at least one person was killed and six wounded. The official was not authorized to speak to media and so spoke on condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, videos from the Panjshir Valley north of Kabul, a stronghold of the Northern Alliance militias that allied with the U.S. against the Taliban in 2001, appear to show potential opposition figures gathering there. It’s in the only province that hasn’t yet fallen to the Taliban.
Those figures include members of the deposed government — Vice President Amrullah Saleh, who asserted on Twitter that he is the country’s rightful president and Defense Minister Gen.
Bismillah Mohammadi — as well as Ahmad Massoud, the son of the slain Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud. It’s unclear if they intend to challenge to the Taliban, who seized most of the country in a matter of days last week.
Karzai meets Taliban faction leader
KABUL, AUG 18 (AP): Afghanistan’s former president has met with a senior leader of a powerful Taliban faction who was once jailed and whose group has been listed by the U.S. as a terrorist network.Former President Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah, a senior official in the ousted government met with Anas Haqqani as part of preliminary meetings that a spokesman for Karzai said would facilitate eventual negotiations with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the top Taliban political leader.The US branded the Haqqani network a terrorist group in 2012, and its involvement in a future government could trigger international sanctions.The Taliban have pledged to form an “inclusive, Islamic government,” although skeptics point to its past record of intolerance for those not adhering to its extreme interpretations of Islam. The Taliban, meanwhile, pressed ahead with their efforts to form an “inclusive, Islamic government.”
UAE welcomes Ashraf Ghani, family into country
DUBAI, AUG 18 (IANS): The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in UAE has confirmed that the Arab nation has welcomed Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani and his family into the country on humanitarian grounds.“The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation can confirm that the UAE has welcomed President Ashraf Ghani and his family into the country on humanitarian grounds,” the ministry said in a statement on Wednesday. There were reports that Ghani had fled the country to Tajikistan or Uzbekistan, while others indicated that he was in Oman, trying to escape to US, after the Taliban took over Afghanistan on Sunday. Russia’s diplomatic mission in Kabul had alleged that Ghani had fled the country with vehicles full of cash.The embassy had said that Ghani had fled the country with four cars and a helicopter full of cash and had to leave some money behind as it would not all fit in, the RIA news agency had reported.Nikita Ishchenko, a spokesman for the Russian embassy in Kabul, was quoted as saying by RIA: “Four cars were full of money, they tried to stuff another part of the money into a helicopter, but not all of it fit. And some of the money was left lying on the tarmac.”Ischenko confirmed his comments to a global news wire, citing “witnesses” as the source of his information, Al Jazeera reported.Afghanistan Defence Minister Bismillah Mohammadi had in a tweet lamented in an apparent reference to Ghani and his associates that they “tied our hands behind our backs and sold the homeland, damn the rich man and his gang”.