Taliban fire into crowd, beat protesters: reports

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Taliban fighters reportedly fired into a crowd and beat protesters in cities throughout Afghanistan on Wednesday, just days after the insurgent group took control of the country.

Al Jazeera reported that at least two people were killed and 12 others injured after shots were fired during a protest in Jalalabad.

Dozens of Afghans gathered in the city to raise the national flag before the country’s Independence Day, according to The Associated Press.

As Afghans tried to lower the Taliban flag, which was raised after the insurgent group took over the region, fighters started firing shots in the air and attacking the Afghans with batons in an effort to disperse the crowd, the AP reported, citing video footage.

A television cameraman who tried to document the violence was also reportedly beaten by the insurgent group’s fighters.

Fighters with the insurgent group have been patrolling the streets in Kabul, at times coming into contact with hundreds of Afghan protesters, The New York Times noted.

Despite the risks involved with demonstrating, protesters have been whistling, shouting and waving large Afghan flags in the streets, prompting Taliban forces to try to dissolve the crowds by firing shots into the air, according to the Times, which cited video aired by local news media outlets.

When those tactics did not work, however, the fighters reportedly resorted to force.

That violence was also seen at checkpoints in Kabul and near the local airport as the U.S. and other countries were operating evacuation flights from the region, according to The Washington Post.

The Post reported that some Afghans who sought to leave the country on evacuation flights were unable to do so because they came into contact with the Taliban at checkpoints.

The insurgent group’s fighters reportedly beat a number of Afghans who tried to cross and intimidated others against fleeing the country, according to the newspaper, which cited other outlets’ reports and an eyewitness account.

In another instance, a former interpreter who worked for the Australian army was reportedly shot in the leg by a Taliban fighter, according to SBS News.

The news of violence between the Taliban and Afghans comes just days after the insurgent group seized Kabul and entered the presidential palace in a relatively peaceful manner, effectively toppling the Afghan government and taking control of the country.

There were not many reports of clashes between the Taliban and Afghan security forces as the insurgent group seized control on Sunday.

“We don’t want Afghanistan to be a battlefield anymore,” Zabihullah Mujahid, the longtime top spokesperson for the Taliban, said during a news conference on Tuesday, according to the Times.

“From today onward, war is over,” he added.

The current developments in the region, however, are putting those statements to the test.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Tuesday that the Taliban “informed” the U.S. that they “are prepared to provide the safe passage of civilians to the airport, and we intend to hold them to that commitment.”

He later said the U.S. has been “working, engaging, coordinating with Taliban elements on the ground to ensure safe passage.”

When asked about reports of violence at checkpoints, Sullivan said that “by and large, what we have found is that people have been able to get to the airport.”

“There have been instances where we have received reports of people being turned away or pushed back or even beaten. We are taking that up in a channel with the Taliban to try to resolve those issues. And we are concerned about whether that will continue to unfold in the coming days,” he added.

Updated at 8:49 a.m.

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