Two people were killed and 12 wounded yesterday after gunmen fired into a crowd of people who had taken down an Afghan Taliban flag in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad.
A black-on-white Taliban flag that was waving at a roundabout in Jalalabad, located about 115km east of the capital Kabul, was removed and replaced with the black, red and green flag of the previous Afghan government yesterday morning.
Video circulating on social media showed the crowd at the city’s Pashtunistan Square dispersing as the sound of gunshots rang out across the busy traffic intersection.
In a second video, dozens of protesters could be seen waving Afghan flags as they walked down a street, with bystanders whistling their support.
Jalalabad is the traditional hub of annual Independence Day celebrations in Afghanistan, which take place every year on August 19 to commemorate the date when the British government recognised Afghan independence in 1919, ending the third Anglo-Afghan war.
Firing was also reported from a central square in Daronta district, just outside Jalalabad, when people there also replaced a Taliban flag.
Reporting from Kabul, Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride said despite the transition from the previous government to one controlled by the Taliban taking place without a major battle in the capital, the situation in Afghanistan remained tense.
“We are getting reports of very serious disturbances in Jalalabad,” he said, stressing the importance of the city as a main trading hub with Afghanistan’s eastern neighbour Pakistan.
“Since we have seen the arrival of the Taliban, they have gradually been removing Afghanistan’s national flags and replacing them with the Taliban flag. We have seen that in Kabul.
A lot of people are not happy with that, but by and large they had to put up with it.
“In Jalalabad, they have not put up with that. There have been resistances to that by a fairly sizeable part of the community there.”
Al Jazeera’s Charlotte Bellis also said that the protests have expanded beyond Jalalabad to several other provinces.
“People are very upset that the flag was taken down and that the Taliban flag has been raised,” said Bellis.
Meanwhile the supreme leader of the Taliban has called for all “political detainees” to be released across Afghanistan, a Taliban twitter account posted Wednesday.
“Based on the general amnesty issued by the leader of the Islamic Emirate, His Eminence, the Commander of the Faithful, Sheikh of Hadith Hibatullah Akhundzada, may God protect him, it is decided to release political detainees from all prisons of the country,” the tweet said.
“All state governors must – from tomorrow – release all political detainees (old and young) without any restrictions or conditions, and hand them over to their families,” the tweet added.
Those released are expected to include Taliban fighters that the Afghan National Security forces imprisoned for engaging in insurgent activities.