Taliban revenge fears grow in Afghanistan

·4-min read

Fears were deepening Friday that the Taliban were reneging on promises to pardon opponents and their families, as NATO called on the hardline Islamists to let Afghans leave the country, with chaotic evacuations underway.

The militants seized control of the capital Kabul on Sunday after a rapid offensive that shocked the United States and its foreign allies, who were just two weeks away from completing their withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Tens of thousands of Afghans have tried to flee the country, with the rushed exit leading to sporadic firing at the airport, people falling to their deaths from planes and roads paralysed with traffic.

US President Joe Biden, facing criticism over his country's response to the Taliban takeover, was to make a televised address from the White House about the evacuation effort.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Friday that the main challenge "is ensuring that people can reach and enter Kabul airport." He spoke at an emergency videolink conference of the alliance's foreign ministers.

A German civilian was shot on his way to the airport, a spokeswoman for the German government said Friday.

In professed rebrand, the Taliban have repeatedly vowed a complete amnesty but an intelligence document for the UN said militants were going door-to-door hunting down former government officials and those who worked with US and NATO forces.

According to a confidential document by the UN's threat assessment consultants seen by AFP, militants were also screening people on the way to Kabul airport.

"They are targeting the families of those who refuse to give themselves up, and prosecuting and punishing their families 'according to sharia law'," Christian Nellemann, the group's executive director, told AFP.

"We expect both individuals previously working with NATO/US forces and their allies, alongside... their family members to be exposed to torture and executions."

The German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle also reported that the Taliban had shot dead the relative of one of its journalists while searching for the editor.

"The killing of a close relative of one of our editors by the Taliban yesterday is inconceivably tragic, and testifies to the acute danger in which all our employees and their families in Afghanistan find themselves," DW director general Peter Limbourg said.

The Taliban have said their fighters are not allowed to enter private homes, but have conceded some of their fighters were breaking into properties.

"Some people are still doing this, possibly in ignorance," Nazar Mohammad Mutmaeen, a senior Taliban official, said in a Twitter post.

"We are ashamed and have no answer for it.

- 'Sign of resistance' -

During their first stint in power, before being ousted by a US-led invasion in 2001, women were excluded from public life and girls banned from school.

People were stoned to death for adultery, while music and television were also banned.

This week, there have been isolated signs of opposition to the Taliban in parts of Afghanistan.

Local media reported on Friday that resistance fighters in northern Baghlan province had taken back three districts from Taliban control.

"Today Taliban... went to villages and were questioning people. That (caused) people to uprise," former interior minister Masoud Andarabi, who has fled the country, told AFP.

A resistance movement was forming in the Panjshir Valley, led by deposed vice-president Amrullah Saleh and Ahmad Massoud, the son of Afghanistan's most famed anti-Taliban fighter Ahmad Shah Massoud.

Ahmad Massoud said he was "ready to follow in his father's footsteps".

Former top government official Abdullah Abdullah on Friday posted photos on Facebook of him and former president Hamid Karzai meeting with elders and resistance commanders in the province -- just days after the pair met with Taliban leaders.

Small, isolated protests have also been held in cities in Afghanistan this week, with Afghans waving the country's black, red and green flags.

Taliban fighters fired guns to disperse dozens of Afghans in Jalalabad who waved the flag on Wednesday.

At the first Friday prayers since the fall of the country to Taliban rule, there were appeals for Afghans to give the new regime a chance.

Gunmen flanked an Islamic scholar as he delivered a fiery speech to a packed Kabul mosque for the most important prayers of the week.

In Herat, one worshipper, Sebqatullah, said the Taliban had brought security to the city after years of violence.

"People couldn't go to visit their friends or other places. Now there's a feeling of peace and ease for everyone," he said.

The United States said Thursday that it had airlifted about 7,000 people out of Kabul over the past five days.

A video on social media showed Afghans at the airport lifting a crying baby above a crowd and passing it to a US soldier.

An Afghan sports federation announced a footballer for the national youth team had died after falling from a US plane he clung to as it took off.


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