Afghanistan news: 17 reported dead in celebratory gunfire as Taliban claim to have taken Panjshir

·15-min read

At least 17 people are reported to have been killed in celebratory gunfire in Kabul after the Taliban claimed to have taken control of the last rebel province of Afghanistan, which would give them total control of the country.

The reports came from two Afghan news agencies, Shamshad and Tolo News, both of which also said around 40 people had been injured.

The Taliban earlier said they had triumphed over the last resistance forces in the Panjshir Valley, north of Kabul, but rebels dispute this.

A rebel leader denied that his forces had lost the valley, where thousands of fighters from regional militias and remnants of the old government’s army had massed.

Though sources have been unable to verify the Taliban claim, if true it would mean they controlled all areas of Afghanistan, something they did not achieve when they first ruled the country between 1996 and 2001.

In the UK, the government has been accused of leaving asylum seekers “in limbo” after refusing amnesty for more than 3,000 Afghans who had already reached the country and were awaiting decisions on their claims.

Sign The Independent’s petition urging the UK to take in more refugees from Afghanistan here.

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Key Points

  • Taliban says Panjshir now under its control

  • At least 17 dead in celebratory gunfire from Taliban

  • Rebel leaders deny Panjshir has fallen

  • Home Office refuses amnesty for 3,000 Afghan asylum seekers already in UK

Taliban claim to have taken Panjshir from rebels

07:51 , Liam James

The Taliban said they have taken over the last rebel province of Afghanistan, the Panjshir Valley, north of Kabul.

“By the grace of Allah Almighty, we are in control of the entire Afghanistan. The troublemakers have been defeated and Panjshir is now under our command,” Reuters reported one Taliban commander as saying.

A resistance leader denied that rebel forces had lost the valley, where thousands of fighters from regional militias and remnants of the old government’s forces had massed.

“There is no doubt we are in a difficult situation. We are under invasion by the Taliban. We have held the ground, we have resisted,” said former vice president Amrullah Saleh.

Though sources have been unable to verify the Taliban claim, if true it would give them complete control of Afghanistan, something they did not achieve when they first ruled the country between 1996 and 2001.

Rebel leader denies Taliban takeover claim

08:08 , Liam James

“News of Panjshir conquests is circulating on Pakistani media. This is a lie,” said Ahmad Massoud, leader of the Panjshir Valley rebels.

Amrullah Saleh, another rebel leader who was vice president in Ashraf Ghani’s government, also denied the claims, in a video message sent to the BBC.

Home Office refuses amnesty for 3,000 Afghan asylum seekers already in UK

08:30 , Liam James

The government has refused an asylum amnesty for more than 3,000 Afghans who have already reached the UK and are awaiting decisions on their claims, writes Lizzie Dearden.

Critics have accused ministers of leaving them in a “nightmarish limbo”, while pledging to support people fleeing the country through a separate resettlement scheme.

The Home Office told The Independent it had frozen the consideration of applications from Afghan asylum seekers who are already in the UK, having deleted key guidance used by decision-makers.

Home Office refuses blanket amnesty for 3,000 Afghan asylum seekers already in UK

UN to convene ministers in bid to boost aid to Afghanistan

08:48 , Liam James

Leader of the UN, Antonio Guterres, will convene a ministerial meeting in Geneva on Monday 13 September to seek more funding to address the growing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, where nearly half the country's 38 million people need assistance.

The secretary-general will also appeal “for full and unimpeded humanitarian access to make sure Afghans continue to get the essential services they need,” the UN spokesman said on Friday.

“Afghanistan faces a looming humanitarian catastrophe,” the spokesman said. “One in three Afghans do not know where their next meal will come from. Nearly half of all children under the age of 5 are predicted to be acutely malnourished in the next 12 months.”

US secretary of State Blinken heading to Qatar

09:06 , Liam James

Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, says he will travel to Qatar and Germany to visit US diplomats and troops along with Afghans who were evacuated from Kabul.

The State Department says Blinken has no plans to meet representatives of the Taliban while in Doha, the Qatari capital, where the group that now controls Afghanistan has an office.

Blinken said he will also visit the US military base in Ramstein, Germany, to thank personnel for their work in completing the evacuation.

Two killed, 12 wounded from Taliban firing into the air

09:17 , Liam James

An official at Emergency Hospital in Kabul told the Associated Press that two people have been killed and 12 wounded after Taliban fighters in the capital fired their weapons into the air in celebration.

Taliban in Kabul fired into the air Friday night to celebrate territorial gains in Panjshir, which they claim to have won from rebels.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, on Twitter called on the militants to immediately put a stop the practice of firing into the air.

Dozens of Afghan girls from national youth football team and families unable to escape | Exclusive

09:41 , Liam James

Dozens of young players from the Afghan Girls National Youth Football Team and their families are currently trapped in hiding in Afghanistan, The Independent revealed.

A letter, seen by The Independent, asked Pakistan’s prime minister to urgently allow 32 girls to enter the nation – warning “time is running out” and the girls are at risk of “grave threats” from the Taliban and “disintegrating security”.

Campaigners told The Independent the young women, many of whom are in their teens, are in hiding in places with waning resources as bomb threats surge and as reports surface of the Taliban searching hotels in a bid to track down women who have disobeyed the edict to remain home.

Full report from Maya Oppenheim here:

Exclusive: Afghan girls from national football team and families unable to escape

US expects to admit more than 50,000 evacuees

09:58 , Liam James

The US government expects to admit more than 50,000 people into the country from the Afghanistan evacuation, according to the US secretary of homeland security.

Alejandro Mayorkas suggested more than that could eventually come in what he called an unprecedented evacuation. He said last month more than 40,000 people had come to the US after the fall of Kabul.

About a quarter of those who have come so far are US citizens or permanent residents.

Kabul man shares message of despair as gunfire rings

10:17 , Liam James

The Today programme earlier broadcast a message from a man in Kabul who wishes to flee Taliban rule but has so far been unable.

The sound of gunfire in the background was constant in the audio clip as he explained how he and his wife were trapped in their home in fear.

He told Radio 4: “You can hear the sound. There is gunfire all over Kabul and you know what is the reason.

“I’m so badly frightened, I cannot explain to you. It is not easy in this condition.”

He said he and his wife were constantly afraid and were living on a diet of rice and water as they could not leave the house.

“I will lose my life here in Kabul, in my home. They will definitely come one day to my home and they’ll get me, and you know what they will do with me.

“I’ve lost hope.”

At least 17 dead in celebratory gunfire

10:35 , Liam James

At least 17 people have been killed in celebratory gunfire in Kabul, reports said, after the Taliban claimed to have taken Panjshir Valley from rebel forces.

The Shamshad news agency said “aerial shooting” in Kabul on Friday killed 17 people and wounded 41. Tolo news agency gave a similar toll.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, rebuked militants and called on them to stop firing into the air.

“Avoid shooting in the air and thank God instead,” Mr Mujahid tweeted. “Bullets can harm civilians, so don't shoot unnecessarily.”

Tens of thousands of Afghan refugees scattered around world where they face years of uncertainty

10:54 , Liam James

Up to 100,000 Afghan refugees have been scattered around the world in the aftermath of the Taliban takeover, plunged into anxiety and fear and facing bureaucratic hurdles that could leave them stranded for years, writes Andrew Buncombe.

In the two weeks between the Taliban taking control of Afghanistan and the August 31 deadline for the US to complete the evacuation of civilians and its soldiers, around 123,000 individuals were flown out. The US said its own aircraft carried 79,000 people, including 6,000 Americans, and more than 73,500 third-country nationals and Afghan civilians.

Yet, campaigners say while this mad-dash scramble may have saved huge numbers of lives, it has cast tens of thousands of individuals into uncertain futures.

Special report in full here:

100,000 Afghan refugees scattered around world face years of uncertainty

Kabul airport 'reopened’

11:19 , Liam James

Qatar's ambassador to Afghanistan Kabul airport has reopened and will be prepared for civilian flights soon, Al Jazeera reported on Saturday.

A technical team repaired the runway at the airport and it is at first open to recieve aid, the ambassador reportedly said.

The Qatari news channel also said two domestic flights had departed Kabul to the cities of Mazar-i-Sharif and Kandahar.

Raab back in UK ahead of Commons return

11:42 , Liam James

Dominic Raab returned to the UK late last night after a diplomatic tour to speak to leaders in Qatar and Pakistan about the situation in Afghanistan.

The foreign secretary left Islamabad after holding talks with his Pakistani counterpart Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, prime minister Imran Khan and the country's army chief. He was in the country to try to secure safe passage for for Britons and Afghans with ties to the UK who remain stuck in Afghanistan.

He earlier visited Doha, the Qatari capital, where he called for an international coalition to be formed in counterbalance to the Taliban.

The House of Commons will return from its summer recess on Monday, with Mr Raab and Boris Johnson expected to come under renewed pressure to explain their response to the crisis and to explain how they will help more people leave the country.

Mass murder would not benefit Taliban, says Kabul professor

12:01 , Liam James

Following an interview with a man in Kabul stuck at home for fear of being killed by the Taliban, Radio 4's Today programme heard from a Kabul university professor who said the man should not be afraid.

Professor Faiz Zaland, who has close links to the Taliban, said there were maybe a hundred thousand people in the same position.

“The killing of a hundred thousand people would not be human. It would not benefit them,” he said.

Such a mass slaughter would create problems with “legitimacy and recognition” for the new Taliban government, he said.

He also said the Taliban would not take embark on such a killing spree as it would lead educated Afghans to flee the country when the government needs their expertise to “connect Afghanistan with the rest of the world”.

Host Nick Robinson questioned whether the Taliban really do care about their image, domestically or internationally.

Prof Zaland said the Taliban have made several public pleas for people not to flee and had promised not to harm them.

Last month the UN reported that the Taliban were conducting a manhunt for people who worked with Nato forces or the previous Afghan government. The same week, the Taliban opened fire on people waving the Afghan national flag at an Independence Day rally.

On Monday, folk singer Fawad Andarabi was taken from his home in a village north of Kabul and shot dead by the Taliban.

Pakistan intelligence chief on surprise trip to Kabul

12:20 , Liam James

Pakistan’s powerful intelligence chief has made a surprise visit to the Afghan capital of Kabul. That’s according to two Pakistan officials who asked not to be named because they are not authorized to speak to the media.It was not immediately clear what General Faiez Hameed had to say Saturday to the Taliban leadership but the Pakistani intelligence service has perhaps the greatest outside influence over the Taliban.The Taliban leadership had its headquarters in Pakistan and were often said to be in direct contact with the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency.Although Pakistan routinely denied giving the Taliban military aid, the accusation was often made by the Afghan government and Washington.

Associated Press

Message from UN chief on Afghanistan

12:42 , Liam James

Antonio Guterres, the UN general secretary, shared a message on Twitter as he announced he would convene a meeting of ministers in Geneva to advocate a boost in humanitarian aid for Afghanistan.

He said: “We need the international community to stand together and support the Afghan people.

“We also appeal for full and unimpeded humanitarian access to make sure Afghans continue to get the essential services they need.

“The United Nations stands in solidarity with the people of Afghanistan and is committed to staying and delivering for them.”

Families of victims of the US drone strike in Kabul speak of their grief #ICYMI

13:01 , Liam James

Emal Ahmadi hasn’t slept since Sunday.

Unable to walk or eat, he weeps uncontrollably. His toddler was killed after a US drone incinerated a car inside a residential compound in a working-class neighbourhood Khwaja Burgh, on the outskirts of Kabul.

Charlene Rodrigues speaks to the family of a child killed in the US airstrike in Kabul last week:

‘Can America give me back my Malika’: Relatives of US drone strike victims speak out

US will send humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, but not the Taliban

13:17 , Liam James

The US Congress is likely to fund the UN and other agencies providing humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan but there is virtually no chance it will directly fund a new Taliban-led government, according to congressional aides.

The United States has set aside roughly $130bn (£94bn) for security, governance and development and humanitarian needs in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion.

Photos coming from Kabul aiport

13:47 , Liam James

The below pictures show staff entering Kabul airport after reports that it had reopened for aid flights.


Sign our petition urging UK government to take in more Afghan refugees

14:09 , Liam James

The Independent has launched a petition urging the UK government to be more ambitious in its plans to take in Afghan refugees following the Taliban seizing power and withdrawal of western troops.

Our Refugees Welcome campaign backs calls by charities for Downing Street to re-settle those who fear for their lives under the Taliban regime.

We are asking you to sign our petition urging Boris Johnson to offer sanctuary to as many Afghans as possible and for local authorities and charities devoted to their welfare to be given proper support.

You can sign the petition here

US has moved most evacuees from Qatar base, says general

14:30 , Liam James

Most of the 57,000 people evacuated by the US from Afghanistan to Qatar have now been moved on, with fewer than 1,400 still at the US military base there, a US general said on Saturday.

Brigadier General Gerald Donohue said some of those who had been flown out of Qatar were now in the United States, while others were in Europe, where they are being processed.

Many of the 1,400 remaining at Al Udeid base in Qatar were scheduled to be flown out on Saturday, while a small group needing medical care would stay until able to travel, he said.

Austria’s Kurz says Europe must not allow wave of migration from Afghanistan

14:47 , Liam James

Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz has said any potential wave of migration from Afghanistan should be handled in neighboring countries.

The People’s Party leader said a great movement to Europe would be unacceptable. He added that “this is why we are in contact with countries in the region.”

He was speaking in Belgrade after meeting Serbia's president Aleksandar Vucic. Thousands of migrants from the Middle East, Africa or Asia have been stranded in Serbia and neighboring countries situated on the so-called Balkan migration route toward Western Europe.

Mr Kurz recently said that Austria won't accept any migrants from Afghanistan because it has taken in a “disproportionately high” number since 2015, when one million people entered Europe from the Middle East, Africa or Asia.

15:04 , Liam James

Brigadier General Gerald Donohue said that nine babies were born at the US military base in Qatar during the evacuation from Kabul.

The US general earlier said that mostof the 57,000 US evacuees in Qatar had been moved on from the base, leaving around 1,400.

Women protest in Kabul for second day

15:28 , Liam James

Tolo News in Afghanistan has published footage from the second day of women’s rights protests in Kabul.

The women are demanding access to education, the right to return to work and a role in governing the country amid fears the Taliban will not follow through with their claims of running a more “inclusive society” than they did in their previous period of rule, which ended 20 years ago.

On Thursday, women took to the streets in the western city of Herat in a march for rights.

16:16 , Liam James

That will be the end of The Independent’s live coverage of events in Afghanistan today.

Further updates are expected elsewhere on our site later today and there will likely be more live reporting tomorrow.

Thanks for following today and enjoy your evenings!

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