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‘Happy infidels are out’: Afghan Taliban fighters

#Happy #infidels #Afghan #Taliban #fighters

The Taliban are a radical Islamist movement that emerged in Afghanistan’s southern province of Kandahar in the 1990s.

They derived their name from “talib,” the Arabic word for student — an allusion to the Islamic colleges or madrasahs from which their cadres emerged.

The group made an impressive return to power on August 15 last year after a lightning offensive that drove out US-led forces after 20 years of military presence.

Led by a reclusive cleric named Hibatullah Akhundzada, the Taliban are consolidating their hold on the backs of tens of thousands of fighters who fought the deadly insurgency.

AFP took a series of portraits of Taliban fighters in Kandahar, the movement’s powerhouse, and also in the capital Kabul.

“I am glad that the infidels are out and the mujahideen (fighters) have established their rule,” said fighter Sharifullah Khobib, 22, from Kandahar.

The fighter, who carried an AK-47 and dressed in a traditional shalwar kameez and black turban, was glad an “Islamic government was back in power”.

Several militants said Afghanistan is now safe for the first time in decades.

“I am a soldier and I can say that no Afghans are being killed now, which means everyone is safe,” said Mohammad Waleed, 30, a guard at a Shia mosque in Kabul.

Islamic State jihadists have claimed multiple attacks on minority groups, including attacks on Shia mosques, since the Taliban takeover.

Many fighters deployed in Kabul come from further afield, but the Pashtun ethnic group in particular makes up the majority of the movement’s cadre.

Most studied in Sunni madrasahs in Pakistan, and for them the establishment of a Sharia-based system was the war’s greatest achievement.

“All men and women can now live freely throughout Afghanistan,” said 27-year-old fighter Niamatullah.

The Taliban’s strict interpretation of Sharia has placed severe restrictions on Afghan women, excluding them from public life, many government positions and education.

But for the fighters, their only regret is that the government is still not internationally recognized.

“Although we are happy to have a new Islamic government, it is sad that the world still hasn’t recognized us,” said Matiullah Qureshi, 22, as he took up his position at a checkpoint in Kandahar.

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