While Taliban officials insisted in press conferences and statements to media outlets that they will hold members of the militant group accountable for their actions and investigate reports of reprisals, evidence of violence and atrocities carried out by the group continued to emerge Saturday.
The Taliban said it is preparing to form a new government and will roll out those plans in the coming weeks. The earliest days of the group's return to the capital of Kabul have left many worried that even as the Taliban tries to strike a conciliatory tone, the group's actions belie the same ruthless barbarism that defined its time in power from 1999 to 2001.
At the same time, Afghans who worked with Western countries and the US-backed administration of ousted President Ashraf Ghani along with the Hazara minority, Shiites who were repressed by the Taliban when they were in power, are all reporting violent reprisal attacks.
"We have heard of some cases of atrocities and crimes against civilians," a Taliban official told Reuters. He added if members of the militant group were "doing these law and order problems, they will be investigated."
Fleeing the country: those who lack faith or desire freedom?
Thousands of Afghans are currently attempting to gain access to the airport, seeking a way out of Afghanistan. They hope to leave before the noose tightens around the country and the expected Islamic fundamentalist rule of the Taliban destroys a way of life they grew used to over the last 20 years, with modern telecommunications, media outlets, relative freedoms and rights for women and girls.
While the Taliban promises a new framework for governing that "will protect everyone's rights," Afghans in and outside of the country have expressed extreme skepticism of the promises and remember the brutality shown by the militant group when they last ruled the country.
People were stoned for allegedly committing adultery, hands were cut off alleged thieves and lashings were routine for women who showed even the most modest amounts of skin.
Twelve people have been killed so far around the airport, according to NATO and Taliban officials.
But for one Taliban-supported imam during prayers Friday in Kabul, "Those with weak faith are running after or hanging from American planes," he said, adding, "They should stay and build their country."
A Taliban spokesman told Reuters news agency that even as those trying to reach the airport can be blocked and beaten by the militants, "The West could have had a better plan to evacuate."
Reports of reprisal attacks
Since Kabul fell almost one week ago, international aid groups and organizations and local media all report the Taliban has violently attacked protesters against their rule, rounded up former government employees and those who criticize them or are viewed to have worked with the Americans.
Such reports come after the Taliban promised a general amnesty, but it seems those words ring rather hollow in light of the evidence.
An Afghan Deutsche Welle editor said a close relative was killed after Taliban fighters came looking for him.
Some of the harrowing tales coming out of the early days of the Taliban's return include a family of 16 that ran to the bathroom, turned the lights off and covered the children's mouths out of terror of what could happen.
An intelligence document for the United Nations reports the Taliban were going door-to-door to hunt down former government officials and those who worked with US and NATO forces.
Researchers with Amnesty International spoke to witnesses in Ghazni province who told of how the Taliban killed nine ethnic Hazara men in the village of Mundarakht over two days beginning July 4. Six were shot and three were tortured to death.
Amnesty noted many such attacks have likely gone unrecorded because the Taliban cut cell service to areas they conquered to disconnect people from the world and keep the world in the dark about the reality on the ground.
ar/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)