The Taliban opened fire to disperse female protesters in Kabul today hours after the Islamists banned rallies after the group was humiliated by viral images of women standing up to them.
Footage purporting to show women protesters taking to the streets today also shows militants in military fatigues preventing demonstrators from gathering and shouting at them to disperse.
Gun shots and screams are then heard in the shaky footage, which MailOnline was unable to independently verify, before it hastily ends.
There were other reports demonstrators gathered near the Pakistan embassy in Kabul in defiance of the ban.
Harrowing images also emerged of journalists with angry welts and bruises after they were detained by Taliban fighters while covering protests.
Protest organisers had called off demonstrations after the ban was announced on Wednesday night amid a noticeably stronger armed Taliban presence – including special forces in military fatigues – on the streets of Kabul.
It comes after video posted online this week showed brave women demanding their rights in front of Taliban fighters and protesting the lack of female representation in the all-male government formed on Tuesday.
The Islamists have taken a harsh stance to demonstrators – locking a crowd women in a basement to prevent them joining protests and whipping those who made to the rallies this week. Footage also showed the militants threatening demonstrators with weapons and firing warning shots into the air to forcibly disperse crowds.
The protests are proving an early test for the Taliban who have seen a show of resistance since taking power on August 15 that was unthinkable under the extremist group’s last regime in the 1990s.
Announcing the protest ban last night, Taliban officials said demonstrations would be banned ‘for the time being’ and warned violators ‘will face severe legal action’.
Protest organisers cancelled rallies in Kabul on Thursday after the Taliban banned demonstrations ‘for the time being’ and warned violators ‘will face severe legal action’ after the group was humiliated by viral images of women standing up to them
Armed Taliban fighters were seen this week threatening protesters with weapons as they try to quell a growing wave of demonstrations against their rule
A Taliban fighter pulls his gun on a female protester in Kabul at a protest against the all-male administration on Tuesday
Harrowing images emerged of two journalists with angry welts and bruises after they were detained by Taliban fighters while covering protest
Neamat Naqdi (left) winces in pain as his colleagues help him remove his shirt after he was severely beaten by Taliban fighters while covering protests on Wednesday
Earlier this week armed fighters dispersed hundreds of protesters in cities across Afghanistan, including the capital Kabul, Faizabad in the northeast and in Herat in the west, where two people were shot dead.
There was a noticeably stronger Taliban presence on the streets of Kabul on Thursday morning as armed fighters – including special forces in military fatigues – stood guard on street corners and manned checkpoints, according to AFP journalists.
An organiser of a protest outside the Pakistan embassy – where gunmen sprayed shots into the air on Tuesday to disperse a rally – told AFP on Thursday it had been cancelled because of the overnight ban.
At the site of another planned protest in the city, there were no signs of a demonstration.
It comes after a Taliban interim government, drawn exclusively from loyalist ranks, was announced this week with established hardliners in all key posts and no women – despite previous promises of an inclusive administration for all Afghans.
Protests in recent days have targeted the cabinet. In Kabul yesterday a group of women bearing signs reading: ‘A Cabinet without women is a failure,’ held another protest in the Pul-e Surkh area of the city.
‘The Cabinet was announced and there were no women in the Cabinet. And some journalists who came to cover the protest were all arrested and taken to the police station,’ said a woman in a video shared on social media.
Afghan women who were veiled, but not wearing burqas, were seen marching through the streets of Kabul clutching ‘freedom’ signs and chanting this week before the Taliban banned protests
Pictured: A protest in Kabul on Tuesday, which came after the Afghan resistance leader called for a ‘national uprising’ against the group
There were reports of protesters, including women, being hit with the butts of rifles on Tuesday
Taliban forces walk in front of Afghan demonstrators as they shout slogans during an anti-Pakistan protest on Tuesday
A Taliban fighter stands guard in Kabul today after the Islamist group banned demonstrations ‘for the time being’ and warned of severe punishments for violators
It comes a day after Taliban fighters left two journalists with ugly welts and bruises after detaining them while they were covering protests.
The pair were picked up at a demonstration yesterday and taken to a police station in the capital, where they say they were punched and beaten with batons, electrical cables and whips after being accused of organising the protest.
‘One of the Taliban put his foot on my head, crushed my face against the concrete. They kicked me in the head… I thought they were going to kill me,’ photographer Nematullah Naqdi told AFP.
Naqdi and his colleague Taqi Daryabi, a reporter, who both work for Etilaat Roz (Information Daily) had been assigned to cover a small protest in front of a police station in Kabul by women demanding the right to work and education.
Naqdi said he was accosted by a Taliban fighter as soon as he started taking pictures.
‘They told me ‘You cannot film’,’ he said. ‘They arrested all those who were filming and took their phones.’
Journalists Neamat Naqdi (left) and Taqi Daryabi (right) were detained and severely beaten by the Taliban while covering protests on Wednesday
Journalist Neamat Naqdi (right) was left with lash marks on his thighs after he was detained while covering protests in Kabul on Wednesday. Taqi Daryabi (left) was left with ugly welts and bruises on his lower back after spending hours in Taliban custody
Neamat Naqdi (left) and Taqi Daryabi (right) arrive back at their offices with facial wounds after being severally beaten by the Taliban who are seeking to crush a growing wave of protests
It comes after two journalists, including pictured Nemat Naqdi who works for Afghan news outlet Etilaat Roz, were detained and severely beaten by the Taliban while covering protests
Naqdi said the Taliban tried to grab his camera, but he managed to hand it to someone in the crowd. Three Taliban fighters caught him, however, and took him to the police station where the beatings started.
Taliban officials have not responded to repeated requests for comment.
‘The Taliban started insulting me, kicking me,’ said Naqdi, adding that he was accused of being the organiser of the rally. He asked why he was being beaten, only to be told: ‘You are lucky you weren’t beheaded’.
Naqdi was eventually taken to a crowded cell where he found his colleague, Daryabi, who had also been arrested and beaten.
‘We were in so much pain that we couldn’t move,’ Daryabi said.
A few hours later the pair were released without explanation – sent on their way with a string of insults. ‘They see us as enemies,’ Taqi said.
The Taliban have claimed they will uphold press freedoms – in line with unspecified Islamic principles – although journalists are increasingly being harassed covering protests across the country.
In recent days, dozens of journalists have reported being beaten, detained or prevented from covering the protests, a show of resistance unthinkable under the Taliban’s last regime in the 1990s.
Most are Afghan journalists, whom the Taliban harass more than the foreign media.
Zaki Daryabi, chief of the Etilaat Roz newspaper, said the Taliban’s words rang hollow.
‘This official speech is totally different from the reality that can be observed on the ground.’
There were other superficial signs of the Taliban tightening their grip.
Images on social media showed the country’s main airport – previously dubbed Hamid Karzai International, after the first post-Taliban president – had been renamed Kabul International.
A public holiday scheduled for Thursday honouring Ahmad Shah Massoud, the famed anti-Taliban resistance fighter assassinated 20 years ago by an Al-Qaeda suicide squad, was also cancelled.
Meanwhile a senior Taliban official said yesterday that women would not be allowed to play cricket – a popular sport in Afghanistan – or possible any other sport because it was ‘not necessary’ and their bodies might be exposed.
On Thursday Cricket Australia said it would cancel a historic maiden Test match against Afghanistan unless the Taliban backtracks on the ban on women playing sport.
Taliban leaders have vowed to respect people’s rights, including those of women, in accordance with Islamic sharia law, but those who have won greater freedoms over the past two decades are worried about losing them.
Furious protesters took to the streets of the capital on Tuesday after the leader of the anti-Taliban resistance called for a ‘national uprising’ against the militant group a day earlier.
Pictures showed female demonstrators arguing with Taliban fighters as one woman stared down an M-16 rifle pointed at her face.
Footage taken on a mobile phone shows a woman in an underground car park, panning around to reveal a crowd of women and some children gathered in the same space. The video is hastily cut short after a man’s voice is heard shouting.
Miraqa Popal, the head of news at Afghanistan’s Tolo News outlet, shared the clip on Twitter, writing that some eyewitnesses said the women were held in Kabul’s Azizi Bank ‘to prevent them from joining protesters’.
An Afghan woman shouts during a protest. Many women are concerned that hard-won rights will be curtailed under the new regime
A female protester speaks with a Taliban fighter during a protest in Kabul on Tuesday
Many women were among the protesters out in Kabul on Tuesday, where they were seen arguing with Taliban fighters
Footage taken on a mobile phone shows a woman in an underground car park, panning around to reveal a crowd of women and some children gathered in the same space
The Taliban this week announced an interim government made up mainly of ethnic Pashtun men including wanted terror suspects and Islamist hardliners, dashing international hopes for a more moderate administration.
The Taliban’s announcement of a new government on Tuesday was widely seen as a signal they were not looking to broaden their base and present a more tolerant face to the world, as they had suggested they would do before their military takeover.
Foreign countries greeted the interim government with caution and dismay on Wednesday. In Kabul, dozens of women took to the streets in protest.
Many critics called on the leadership to respect basic human rights and revive the economy, which faces collapse amid steep inflation, food shortages and the prospect of foreign aid being slashed as countries seek to isolate the Taliban.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said no one in the Biden administration ‘would suggest that the Taliban are respected and valued members of the global community.’
The European Union voiced its disapproval at the appointments, but said it was ready to continue humanitarian assistance. Longer-term aid would depend on the Taliban upholding basic freedoms.
The new acting Cabinet includes former detainees of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, while the interior minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is wanted by the United States on terrorism charges and carries a reward of $10 million.
His uncle, with a bounty of $5 million, is the minister for refugees and repatriation.
But even as the Taliban consolidate power, they face a monumental task in ruling Afghanistan, which is wracked with economic woes and security challenges – including from the Islamic State group’s local chapter.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said any international legitimacy for the Taliban government would have to be ‘earned’, after leading a 20-nation virtual meeting on the Afghan crisis.
In Germany, Blinken said the ministerial talks were the ‘starting point for international coordination’ on dealing with the Taliban. Among the countries in the virtual meeting were European allies and historic Taliban backer Pakistan.
‘The Taliban seek international legitimacy. Any legitimacy – any support – will have to be earned,’ Blinken told reporters.
The European Union said the ‘caretaker’ government failed to honour previous vows of inclusion. China meanwhile said it welcomed the end of ‘three weeks of anarchy’, adding it ‘attaches great importance’ to the announcement of an interim government.
Qatar, the central intermediary between the Taliban and the international community in recent years, said the Taliban had demonstrated ‘pragmatism’ of late.
Former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani, who fled the country as the Taliban entered Kabul, apologised Wednesday to the Afghan people for how his rule ended.
The Taliban top brass, from the UN-sanctioned leader freed by the US three years ago to the son of the one-eyed former chief Mullah Omar now serving as interior minister
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, Taliban co-founder and leader of the provisional government
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of the co-founders of the Taliban, was freed from jail in Pakistan three years ago at the request of the U.S. government.
Just nine months ago, he posed for pictures with Donald Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to sign a peace deal in Doha which today lies in tatters.
Last month, his forces seized Kabul and he is now tipped to become Afghanistan’s next leader in a reversal of fortune which humiliates Washington.
While Haibatullah Akhundzada is the Taliban’s overall leader, Baradar is head of its political office and one of the most recognisable faces of the chiefs who have been involved in peace talks in Qatar.
In September 2020, Baradar was pictured with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who ‘urged the Taliban to seize this opportunity to forge a political settlement and reach a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire,’ the US said in a statement
The 53-year-old was deputy leader under ex-chief Mullah Mohammed Omar, whose support for Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden led to the US-led invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11.
Baradar is reported to have flown immediately from Doha to Kabul on Sunday evening as the militants were storming the presidential palace.
Born in Uruzgan province in 1968, Baradar was raised in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban movement.
He fought with the mujahideen against the Soviets in the 1980s until they were driven out in 1989.
Afterwards, Afghanistan was gripped by a blood civil war between rival warlords and Baradar set up an Islamic school in Kandahar with his former commander Mohammed Omar.
The two mullahs helped to found the Taliban movement, an ideology which embraced hardline orthodoxy and strived for the creation of an Islamic Emirate.
Fuelled by zealotry, hatred of greedy warlords and with financial backing from Pakistan’s secret services, the Taliban seized power in 1996 after conquering provincial capitals before marching on Kabul, just as they have in recent months.
Baradar had a number of different roles during the Taliban’s five-year reign and was the deputy defence minister when the US invaded in 2001.
He went into hiding but remained active in the Taliban’s leadership in exile.
In 2010, the CIA tracked him down to the Pakistani city of Karachi and in February of that year the Pakistani intelligence service (ISI) arrested him.
But in 2018, he was released at the request of the Trump administration as part of their ongoing negotiations with the Taliban in Qatar, on the understanding that he could help broker peace.
In February 2020, Baradar signed the Doha Agreement in which the U.S. pledged to leave Afghanistan on the basis that the Taliban would enter into a power-sharing arrangement with President Ashraf Ghani’s government in Kabul.
He was pictured in September with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who ‘urged the Taliban to seize this opportunity to forge a political settlement and reach a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire,’ the US said in a statement.
Pompeo ‘welcomed Afghan leadership and ownership of the effort to end 40 years of war and ensure that Afghanistan is not a threat to the United States or its allies.’
The Doha deal was heralded as a momentous peace declaration but has been proved to be nothing but a ploy by the Taliban.
The jihadists waited until thousands of American troops had left before launching a major offensive to recapture the country, undoing two decades of work by the US-led coalition.
Haibatullah Akhundzada, the future Emir of Afghanistan and the Taliban’s Islamic figurehead
Haibatullah Akhundzada, the ‘Leader of the Faithful,’ is the Taliban’s Supreme Commander with the final word on its political, religious and military policy.
Akhundzada is expected to take the title of Emir of Afghanistan.
Believed to be around 60-years-old, he is not known for his military strategy but is revered as an Islamic scholar and rules the Taliban by that right.
He took over in 2016 when the group’s former chief, Akhtar Mansour, was killed in a US drone strike on the Pakistani border.
After being appointed leader, Akhundzada secured a pledge of loyalty from Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, who showered the religious scholar with praise – calling him ‘the emir of the faithful’.
This helped to seal his jihadi credentials with the group’s long-time allies.
Akhundzada became head of the Taliban’s council of religious scholars after the US invasion and is believed to be the author of many of its fatwas (Islamic legal rulings)
Akhundzada was tasked with the enormous challenge of unifying a militant movement that briefly fractured during a bitter power struggle following the assassination of his predecessor, and the revelation that the leadership had hid the death of Taliban founder Mullah Omar for years.
The leader’s public profile has been largely limited to the release of annual messages during Islamic holidays.
Akhundzada was born around 1959 to a religious scholar in the Panjwayi district of Kandahar Province.
His family were forced to flee their home during the Soviet invasion and he joined the resistance as a young man.
He was one of the first new Taliban recruits in the 1990s and immediately impressed his superiors with his knowledge of Islamic law.
When the Taliban captured Afghanistan’s western Farah province, he was put in charge of fighting crime in the area.
As the Taliban seized more of the country, Akhunzad became head of the military court and deputy chief of its supreme court.
After the US invasion in 2001 he became head of the Taliban’s council of religious scholars and is believed to be the author of many of its fatwas (Islamic legal rulings), including public executions of murderer and adulterers and cutting the hands off thieves.
Before being named the new leader he had been preaching and teaching for around 15 years at a mosque in Kuchlak, a town in southwestern Pakistan, sources told Reuters.
Sirajuddin Haqqani, the son of the famed commander from the anti-Soviet jihad
Sirajuddin doubles as both the deputy leader of the Taliban movement while also heading the powerful Haqqani network.
The Haqqani Network is a US-designated terror group that has long been viewed as one of the most dangerous factions fighting Afghan and US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan during the past two decades.
The group is infamous for its use of suicide bombers and is believed to have orchestrated some of the most high-profile attacks in Kabul over the years.
An FBI wanted poster for Sirajuddin Haqqani, the son of the famed commander from the anti-Soviet jihad
The network has also been accused of assassinating top Afghan officials and holding kidnapped Western citizens for ransom – including US soldier Bowe Bergdahl, released in 2014.
Known for their independence, fighting acumen, and savvy business dealings, the Haqqanis are believed to oversee operations in the rugged mountains of eastern Afghanistan, while holding considerable sway over the Taliban’s leadership council.
Mullah Yaqoob, the son of the Taliban’s founder
The son of the Taliban’s founder Mullah Omar.
Mullah Yaqoob heads the group’s powerful military commission, which oversees a vast network of field commanders charged with executing the insurgency’s strategic operations in the war.
His lineage and ties to his father – who enjoyed a cult-like status as the Taliban’s leader – serves as a potent symbol and makes him a unifying figure over a sprawling movement.
However speculation remains rife about Yaqoob’s exact role within the movement, with some analysts arguing that his appointment to the role in 2020 was merely cosmetic.