At least 17 people were killed and 41 injured during celebratory firing by the Taliban in Kabul on Friday, local Afghan news agency TOLO News reported on Saturday.
Taliban in Kabul fired into the air Friday night to celebrate gains on the battlefield in Panjshir province, which still remains under the control of anti-Taliban fighters.
The Associated Press pegged the toll at two and the number of injured at 12, according to a hospital official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to brief the media. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid on Twitter criticised the practice of firing into the air and called on the militants to stop it immediately. “Avoid firing in the air and thank God instead," said Mujahid, tipped to become the new regime’s information minister.
“The weapons and bullets given to you are public property. No one has the right to waste them. The bullets can also harm civilians, don’t shoot in vain."
However, leaders of the Taliban resistance, who have been holding out in the Panjshir valley, denied the claim. Ahmad Massoud, late Mujahideen commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, said in a tweet, that “Panjshir conquests is circulating on Pakistani media. This is a lie. Conquering Panjshir will be my last day in Panjshir, inshallah."
‘Acting’ President Amrullah Saleh also tweeted: “The RESISTANCE is continuing and will continue. I am here with my soil, for my soil & defending its dignity." His son, Ebadullah Saleh, denied that Panjshir had fallen, texting the message “No, it’s false".
Saleh also told CNN-News18 that he was in the Panjshir valley, where the resistance forces had been fighting a Taliban offensive for the past few days, but had held their ground successfully. Calling the reports “absolutely baseless", Saleh said the Panjshir valley had been under attack by the Taliban and other forces since four to five days, but that no territory had been captured by the insurgents.
“There are some media reports being circulated around that I have fled my country. This is absolutely baseless. This is my voice, I am calling you from the Panjshir valley, from my base. I am with our commanders and our political leaders," said Saleh.
Talking about the attack from the Taliban, Saleh said: “We are managing the situation. Of course, it’s a difficult situation, We are under the invasion of the Taliban and Pakistanis and Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. We have held the ground, we have not lost territory."
Facing the challenge of morphing from insurgents to rulers, the Taliban appear determined to snuff out the Panjshir resistance before announcing who will lead the country in the aftermath of Monday’s US troop withdrawal, which was supposed to end two decades of war.
But Panjshir, which held out for nearly a decade against the Soviet Union’s occupation and also the Taliban’s first rule from 1996-2001, is stubbornly holding out.
Fighters from the so-called National Resistance Front (NRF) — made up of anti-Taliban militia and former Afghan security forces — are understood to have stockpiled a significant armoury in the valley, around 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Kabul and guarded by a narrow gorge.
With inputs from AP, AFP.