Taliban flag torn down in first signal of popular opposition

Kabul, Aug 19 (IANS) Several people have been killed after Taliban fighters shot at crowds in Afghanistan for waving the national flag at an independence day rally, leading to mass panic and stampede, a witness said, a day after three people were killed in a similar protest, The Guardian reported on Thursday.
Demonstrations in the city of Asadabad, in which white Taliban flags were torn down, were among the first signs of popular opposition to the Taliban since their stunning advance across the country and the capture of Kabul on August 15.
It was unclear if the casualties resulted from the firing or from the crowd crush it triggered, said a witness, Mohammed Salim.
“Hundreds of people came out on the streets. Several people were killed and injured in the stampede and firing by the Taliban,” Salim said.
A Taliban spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.
Afghanistan celebrates its independence from British control on August 19 and there were signs that it had galvanised dissent against the Taliban across the country.
Hundreds of protesters, including women, gathered in Kabul brandishing the national flag and shouting “our flag, our identity”.
Taliban fighters surrounded some of the protesters, shouting and firing rounds in the air in an attempt to disperse the crowds.
At Abdul Haq Square, one protester climbed a flag pole to pull down the white Taliban flag and replace it with the black, red and green national flag.
On Wednesday, three people were killed when Taliban fighters fired at protesters waving the national flag in Jalalabad.
Afghan vice-president, Amrullah Saleh, who is trying to rally the opposition to the Taliban under his leadership, expressed support for the protests.
“Salute those who carry the national flag and thus stand for dignity of the nation,” he said.

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