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Afghanistan: First Kabul airlift expected since Taliban takeover

Some 200 people, including Americans, are expected to be airlifted out of Kabul in the first such operation since the Taliban takeover on 15 August.

Charter flights are expected to start on Thursday, Qatari and US sources say.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged help with evacuations during a recent visit to Qatar, which is reportedly involved in the operation.

Hundreds of Afghan citizens who had helped the US military were unable to get out in last month’s US airlift.

Around 100 US citizens are estimated to remain in Afghanistan.

The flights are the first to leave since the end of the rushed US military-led evacuations finished at the end of August.

More than 124,000 foreigners and Afghans fearful of Taliban retribution were flown out of the country.

Journalists beaten

Photos have also emerged showing injuries inflicted on two journalists who covered protests on Wednesday.

They are reported to have been badly beaten after being arrested by the Taliban in Kabul.

Two Afghan journalists who say they were badly beaten by the Taliban after covering protests in Kabul
image captionThe two journalists say they were badly beaten in Taliban custody

Photographer Nematullah Naqdi spoke to the AFP news agency.

“One of the Taliban put his foot on my head, crushed my face against the concrete. They kicked me in the head… I thought they were going to kill me.”

Naqdi was covering a protest by women in front of a police station with his colleague at the local Etilaatroz newspaper, Taqi Darybai.

The Taliban have banned protests unless authorised by the justice ministry.

But dozens of demonstrators chanting “we want freedom” gathered near the Pakistan embassy in Kabul and Taliban gunmen opened fire to disperse them, protesters said.

More demonstrations were reported in Parwan and Nimruz provinces.

Taliban gunfire rang out in Parwan, Aamaj news reports. Marchers shouted: “No-one can silence our voice by force of arms, death to Pakistan and the United States.”

Another protest by women took place in Kapisa province, north-east of Kabul, local reports say. Sources told Aamaj news that several women had been arrested.

BBC Dari has heard from Afghans calling in to their radio output.

“It is our right to protest,” said Haseeneh from Kabul.

“Now that we know what the Taliban meant by their new cabinet, we will protest. They kept saying that women should wait till the Taliban announce their new cabinet. There is no single woman in the cabinet.”

But Alazay from the southern province of Helmand called for other countries to recognise the Taliban government.

“If that happens, our lives are going to be much easier. If the protests continue and the Taliban suppress them, the international community will not recognise the Taliban’s new government and do you know who will suffer? We, the people.”

On Wednesday, dozens of women in Kabul and the north-eastern province of Badakhshan protested against the formation of the all-male interim Taliban government.

On Tuesday, three people were killed during a demonstration in the western city of Herat. The Taliban have denied that they were behind the violence.

Separately, there are reports that the internet has been taken down in parts of Kabul.

Afghanistan journalist Bilal Sawary tweeted that several sources in the telecom sector had confirmed to him that the Taliban had ordered mobile phone internet coverage to be turned off temporarily in several districts.

Separately, social media footage has emerged from the Panjshir valley said to show the desecration of the mausoleum of the well-known anti-Taliban alliance leader, Ahmed Shah Massoud.

The Taliban said on Tuesday they had taken the valley – the last region of Afghanistan holding out against their rule – from the Afghanistan National Resistance Front. The NRF, led by Ahmed Shah Massoud’s son, said they would continue to fight.

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