Taliban ask Afghan imams to counter negative reports, urge people not to try to flee at Friday prayers
The Taliban have asked Afghan imams to try to counter negative reports about the group during the first Friday prayers and also urge people not to try to flee the country as tens of thousands of people are trying to escape since the hardline Islamist group seized Kabul on Sunday. The Taliban said it hoped imams across the country would promote the benefits of the Islamic system and urge unity.
In a message on Thursday, the Taliban said the imams should "encourage our compatriots to work for the development of the country, and not to try to leave the country" and answer "the negative propaganda of the enemy". The message came as protesters took to the streets of Kabul and other Afghan cities as popular opposition to the Taliban spread. Several people were killed when Taliban fighters fired on a crowd in the eastern city of Asadabad, reports said.
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Afghans are trying to leave the nation as the country's government collapsed on Sunday and are rushing to the airport to flee as they are afraid of the Taliban’s brutal atrocities in the past. The Taliban have presented a more moderate face, saying they want peace, will not take revenge against old enemies and will respect the rights of women within the framework of Islamic law. They severely restricted women's rights, staged public executions and blew up ancient Buddhist statues when in power from 1996-2001. They were ousted in a US-led invasion in 2001.
A report by a Norwegian intelligence group said the Taliban are rounding up Afghans on a blacklist of people who worked with Afghanistan's previous administration or US-led forces that supported it. Complaints by some Afghan journalists have cast doubt on assurances that independent media would be allowed.
"Taliban are intensifying the hunt-down of all individuals and collaborators with the former regime, and if unsuccessful, target and arrest the families and punish them according to their own interpretation of Sharia law," the report, compiled by the RHIPTO Norwegian Center for Global Analyses and seen by Reuters, said. "Particularly at risk are individuals in central positions in military, police and investigative units."
A US lawmaker also said the Taliban were using files from the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan's intelligence agency, to identify Afghans who worked for the US.
"They are methodically ramping up efforts to round those folks up. I've had people send me pictures of Taliban outside their apartment complexes, searching for them,” Representative Jason Crow said, according to Reuters.
Countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, have been evacuating their citizens as Afghanistan's future is hanging in balance. The US state department on Thursday said that it has airlifted more than 7,000 evacuees since Saturday.
(With agency inputs)