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Blast rocks Kabul after Taliban hold victory rally

Published : 03 Oct 2021 09:54 PM | Updated : 05 Oct 2021 11:52 AM

Taliban supporters and senior figures held their first mass rally near Kabul on Sunday, but their show of strength was  overshadowed by a bomb blast near a mosque in the Afghan capital.

No foreign government has yet recognised the Islamist former rebels' rule,  though their hold on power within the country is becoming stronger, seven  weeks after they took Kabul.

But in a sign that the Taliban victory has not brought an end to violence  after Afghanistan's 20-year conflict, an explosion killed at least two  civilians and wounded several more outside Kabul's Eid Gah mosque.

Read more: Don’t trim beards, Taliban warn Afghan barbers

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid had said on Saturday that a prayer  ceremony would be held at the mosque for his mother following her recent  death. He made no reference to this on Sunday as he tweeted that the blast  had killed several civilians in the area.

Civilians in bloodied clothing were seen by AFP arriving at the nearby  Kabul Emergency Hospital.

"Our initial information shows two civilians were killed and three wounded  in the blast," interior ministry spokesman Qari Sayed Khosti told AFP.

Taliban fighters arriving at the hospital handed over their weapons and  stripped off their body armour to go in to donate blood, and the hospital  said on Twitter that four patients were being treated.

The blast, which could be heard across the centre of the capital, came  shortly after the new Taliban "interim government" staged a rally just  outside the capital, from which they were driven out in 2001 in a US-led  operation launched after the 9/11 attacks.

A ban on unauthorised demonstrations has meant protests, many led by  women, against Afghanistan's new masters have dwindled.

But Sunday's pro-Taliban rally in Kohdaman township in the hilly outskirts  of Kabul was attended by 1,500 men and boys.

"This is the day we waited for," said Khalil Haqqani, the new minister for  refugees who in 2011 was labelled a terrorist by the United States with a $5  million bounty on his head. He is a prominent leader of the Haqqani militant  network founded by his brother Jalaluddin.

Read more: Attack on Taliban in eastern Afghanistan, 5 killed

"We have achieved our goal, but it requires protection," he told the  gathering, with his rifle leaning against the lectern.

"My advice to the world is that they leave Afghanistan to Afghanistan."

Flanked by armed Taliban fighters in combat gear, leading officials and  commanders addressed an audience sat in rows of chairs under awnings,  celebrating victory over the United States and praising suicide bombers.

One speaker urged the crowd to "respect elders" because they were the  "mujahids who fought against the Soviets" in the 1980s.

Another, introduced as Rahmatullah from nearby Mir Bacha Kot, said the  Taliban's victory was "the result of those youths who stood in queues to  register for suicide attacks".

The United States, European nations and other powers that were major  donors to the former Afghan government before the Taliban takeover have warned they will not recognise the new administration -- made up largely of  hardliners and no women -- unless it becomes more inclusive.

Afghanistan's neighbour Pakistan has urged the world to engage with the  Taliban, while stopping short of itself recognising the new regime.

US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, who will be in Islamabad next  week, has pressed for an inclusive government in Kabul, and said Washington  looks to "Pakistan to play a critical role in enabling that outcome".

But while hundreds turned out for Saturday's rally, the Taliban have been  loath to allow similar gatherings by those opposed to their rule.

Last Thursday, the Taliban violently cracked down on a small women's  rights demonstration in eastern Kabul, firing shots into the air to disperse  protesters.

Read more: Taliban hang body in public

Gunmen then forced back the protesters as they tried to continue with the  demonstration.

Isolated anti-Taliban rallies -- with women at the forefront -- were  staged in cities around the country after the group seized power, including  in the western city of Herat where two people were shot dead.

But protests have dwindled since the government issued an order banning  demonstrations that do not have prior authorisation, warning of "severe legal  action" for violators.

Separately, the government of Qatar announced that a fifth evacuation  flight had taken off from Kabul for Doha, carrying 235 people seeking to  leave Afghanistan since the Taliban victory.

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