The Latest: Friday prayers quiet in Kabul, Taliban unseen

By The Associated PressIn this photo provided by the U.S. Marine Corps, civilians prepare to board a plane during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. (Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla/U.S. Marine Corps via AP)

Friday prayers were uneventful in the Afghan capital, with no Taliban gunmen seen guarding the entrances of mosques or enforcing dress code restrictions as they have in the past. Some mosques even saw higher numbers than normal in attendance.

The Islamic-fundamentalist Taliban issued guidance to imams around Afghanistan on Thursday, saying they should use the weekly sermons and prayers to appeal for unity, urge people not to flee the country, and to counter “negative propaganda” about them.

“The benefits of state should be explained to all,” a commission of Taliban monitoring religious affairs and mosques said in the guidance they circulated.

Kabul resident Jawed Safi was please to see the mosques secure. The Afghan government had previously posted guards at mosques to ward off attackers due to frequent bombings in the past.

“People were as normal, as in the past, but there were more of them,” Safi said, adding that there were “no restrictions so far.”

An imam in eastern Kabul, Bashir Wardak, said that Afghans should unite to stop the decadeslong bloodshed. “Allah has ordered us to peace and brotherhood so we must get united,” he said.

Abdul Boghdi, another imam in northern Kabul, said that “people together should collect money to help those displaced.”

One attendee, Qasim Ahmadi, saw people wearing jeans attend prayers as usual. “There should be no restrictions on us, we are already Muslims,” he said. “The Taliban should aim for an inclusive government in order to be successful.”

Thousand of internally displaced people are living on the streets and in the parks of Kabul, with limited access to drinking water and food. Some reports indicate that their situation has worsened since the Taliban overran the capital, causing donors to shy away.



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JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia has evacuated 26 of its citizens, including 5 diplomats, from Kabul on a special military flight to Jakarta.

Indonesia’s foreign minister Retno Marsudi said in a tweet that the Friday flight that would land later in the day also carried five Filipinos and two Afghans, including the spouse of an Indonesian national and a local staff member of the Indonesian Embassy.

“The Indonesian military aircraft carrying out this mission is now in Islamabad and will proceed to Indonesia soon,” Marsudi said.

The ministry’s spokesperson, Teuku Faizasyah said the evacuation was planned once the Taliban took control of the capital and President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.


KABUL, Afghanistan — Life is returning to normal for some Afghans in the capital, although Kabul’s normally crowded streets appear empty of their usual traffic congestion.

The Taliban have not imposed any restrictions on people so far, as they prepare for Friday prayers. Having a long beard and wearing traditional hats and clothes were required while the group was ruling the country in the late 90s.

Fewer stores have opened, and few cars could be seen on the streets. Taliban checkpoints have sprung up around the city, searching cars and checking documents. Some Taliban are patrolling in cars as well.


MADRID — Top European Union officials will visit a Spanish military airport being used as a hub to receive Afghans flown out of Kabul before they are distributed to other countries in the bloc.

Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said Friday that EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and EU Council President Charles Michel will visit a temporary camp at the Torrejón de Ardoz military airport near Madrid on Saturday.

Albares told Spanish public broadcaster RTVE that Spain is receiving evacuated Afghans who have worked for EU bodies or EU member nations.

The evacuees are expected to spend several days at the camp for health and security screening before moving to reception centers ahead of their journeys to other European countries.


ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s state-run airline has resumed special flights for Kabul, in order to evacuate Pakistanis and foreigners stranded in Afghanistan.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry in a tweet said Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) will send its two planes to the Afghan capital on Friday to evacuate 350 passengers.

Chaudhry says Pakistan’s interior ministry is also facilitating the evacuation of Pakistanis and foreigners from Afghanistan through border crossings.

The latest development comes days after PIA halted all flights to Kabul to protect passengers, the crew and the planes after consulting the Afghan civil aviation authorities.

Pakistan’s government has been trying to evacuate its citizens and foreigners by air and land routes since the Taliban took over Kabul.

For this purpose, Pakistan is issuing visas upon arrival to all diplomats, foreigners and journalists who want to leave Kabul over security concerns.


BERLIN — Germany says it has flown out more than 1,600 people from Kabul this week.

The Defense Ministry on Friday said that the German military has carried out 11 evacuation flights so far, with more planned.

The German government has pledged to help bring all citizens and local Afghan staff who worked for the German military, aid groups or news organizations out of the country.

Senior German officials have also said efforts will be made to help Afghans who are particularly vulnerable to reprisals from the Taliban, such as human rights defenders.

But Germany’s commanding officer in Kabul, Gen. Jens Arlt, said the evacuation has been hampered by the large number of people outside Kabul airport hoping to get onto planes out of Afghanistan.


COPENHAGEN, Denmark — A plane with people who have been evacuated from Afghanistan landed Friday at the Oslo airport in Norway.

Norway’s Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide told Norwegian news agency NTB that onboard were citizens from the Scandinavian country, family members to local employees and “some other European citizens.” Eriksen Soereide didn’t give any figures or elaborate.

Among the group were reporters for Norway’s TV2 and NRK television channels.

The plane arrived from Tbilisi, Georgia.

On Wednesday, a plane with 13 Norwegian citizens, mostly diplomats, arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark.


CANBERRA, Australia — More than 160 Australian and Afghan citizens have been evacuated from Kabul after a third rescue flight, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday.

Morrison said 60 Australians and Afghans who helped Australia during the 20-year war were flown to the United Arab Emirates overnight.

The first Australian flight carrying 94 evacuees touched down in the Australian west coast city of Perth on Friday, he said.

Australia could not evacuate parts of Afghanistan beyond the Kabul airport, he added.

“The situation in Kabul does remain chaotic,” Morrison said. The government has not commented on media reports that Australia plans to evacuate 600 Australians and Afghans.


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