On Thursday, protests against the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan spread to several towns, including the capital Kabul, and a witness said many people were killed as militants opened fire on a crowd in Asadabad, Kunar province in eastern Afghanistan.
“Our flag, our identity,” a crowd of men and women waving black, red, and green national flags shouted in Kabul, a video posted on social media showed, on the day Afghanistan celebrates independence from British control in 1919.
A witness reported gunshots near the rally, but they appeared to be Taliban firing into the air.
Marchers chanted “God is greatest”. At some protests elsewhere, media have reported people tearing down the white flag of the Taliban.
A Taliban spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
Some demonstrations are small, but combined with a scramble by thousands of people to flee the country via Kabul airport they underline the challenge the Taliban will face to govern.
The Islamist movement conquered Afghanistan at lightning speed as foreign troops withdrew, surprising even its leaders and leaving them to fill power vacuums in many places.
Since seizing Kabul on Sunday, the Taliban have presented a more moderate face, saying they want peace here, will not take revenge against old enemies, and will respect the rights of women here within the framework of Islamic law.
During their previous rule from 1996-2001, they severely restricted women’s rights, staged public executions, and blew up ancient Buddhist statues.
In Asadabad, several people were killed during a rally, but it was unclear if the casualties resulted from Taliban firing or from a stampede that it triggered.
“Hundreds of people came out on the streets,” witness Mohammed Salim said. “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.”
Protests flared in the city of Jalalabad and a district of Paktia province, also both in the east.
On Wednesday, Taliban fighters fired at protesters waving flags in Jalalabad, killing three, witnesses and media reported.
“Salute those who carry the national flag and thus stand for dignity of the nation,” First Vice President Amrullah Saleh, who is trying to rally opposition to the Taliban, said on Twitter.
Saleh said on Tuesday he was the “legitimate caretaker president” in Afghanistan after President Ashraf Ghani fled.
In an op-ed here for the Washington Post, Ahmad Massoud, leader of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, based in an old anti-Taliban stronghold northeast of Kabul, called for Western support.
“I write from the Panjshir Valley today, ready to follow in my father’s footsteps, with mujahideen fighters who are prepared to once again take on the Taliban,” wrote Massoud, the son of Ahmad Shah Massoud, a veteran guerrilla leader killed by suspected al Qaeda militants in 2001.
Other former Afghan leaders, including ex-president Hamid Karzai, have held talks with the Taliban.
U.S. President Joe Biden said the Taliban must decide if they want international recognition.
“I think they’re going through a sort of existential crisis about: Do they want to be recognized by the international community as being a legitimate government? I’m not sure they do,”Biden said in a TV interview.