Protests against the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan have spread to more cities, including the capital Kabul, while the armed group called on the country’s Imams to urge unity at Friday prayers, the first since they seized control.
“Hundreds of people came out on the streets,” witness Mohammed Salim told the Reuters news agency. “At first I was scared and didn’t want to go, but when I saw one of my neighbours joined in, I took out the flag I have at home.
“Several people were killed and injured in the stampede and firing by the Taliban.”
In Kabul, a crowd of men and women shouted, “Our flag, our identity”, and waved red and green national flags, a video posted on social media showed, on the day Afghanistan celebrates independence from British control in 1919.
Marchers chanted “God is greatest”. At some protests elsewhere, media reported people tearing down the white flag of the Taliban.
Al Jazeera’s Charlotte Bellis, reporting from Kabul, said the Taliban was “shooting at people … there was a heavy volley of gunfire for about a minute straight”.
“There were people trying to climb a hill to raise the old Afghan flag and they were pushed back with this heavy volley of gunfire. I could see dust kicking up off the hill and they scrambled back down the hill again,” Bellis said.
“There’s this kind of resistance where a lot of people are upset about the republic flag being taken down in a lot of places and in its place the Taliban flag being raised.”
The Taliban urged unity before Friday prayers and called on all imams in Kabul and the provinces to persuade people not to try to leave the country.
Protests flared in the city of Jalalabad and a district of Paktia province, both in the east.
At least two people were killed on Thursday when the Taliban fired on a crowd in Asadabad in the eastern province of Kunar, witnesses told Al Jazeera.
On Wednesday, Taliban fighters fired at protesters waving flags in Jalalabad, killing three, witnesses and media reported.
Since seizing Kabul on Sunday, the Taliban has presented a more moderate face, saying it wants peace, will not take revenge against old enemies and will respect the rights of women within the framework of Islamic law.
During their previous rule from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban severely restricted women’s rights, staged public executions, and blew up ancient Buddhist statues.