Footage shows Taliban fighters in Afghan presidential palace
by AHMAD SEIR, RAHIM FAIEZ, TAMEEM AKHGAR and JON GAMBRELL Associated Press
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan's embattled president left the country Sunday, joining thousands of his fellow citizens and foreigners in a stampede fleeing the advancing Taliban and signaling the end of a 20-year Western experiment aimed at remaking the country.
The Taliban fanned out across the capital, and an official with the militant group said it would soon announce the creation of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan from the presidential palace in Kabul. Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesman and negotiator, told The Associated Press that the militants would hold talks in the coming days aimed at forming an “open, inclusive Islamic government."
A Taliban official earlier said the group would announce the creation of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan from the palace, but those plans appeared to be on hold. That was the name of the country under Taliban rule before the militants were ousted by U.S.-led forces after the 9/11 attacks. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.
The city was meanwhile gripped by panic, with helicopters racing overhead throughout the day to evacuate personnel from the U.S. Embassy. Smoke rose near the compound as staff destroyed important documents, and the American flag was lowered. Several other Western missions also prepared to pull their people out.
Afghans fearing that the Taliban could reimpose the kind of brutal rule that all but eliminated women’s rights rushed to leave the country, lining up at cash machines to withdraw their life savings. The desperately poor — who had left homes in the countryside for the presumed safety of the capital — remained in parks and open spaces throughout the city.
Though the Taliban had promised a peaceful transition, the U.S. Embassy suspended operations and warned Americans late in the day to shelter in place and not try to get to the airport.
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