The Latest: Afghan high school girls rally against Taliban

KABUL, Afghanistan — A small group of Afghan high school students held a protest Monday in the western city of Herat to denounce Taliban moves preventing girls from attending school.

Thirteen schoolgirls, 15 to 18 years of age, gathered in a residential area on Herat’s outskirts — a neighborhood where the Taliban have no presence — so as not to draw their attention. A few local journalists invited by the girls covered the rally.

The protesters held banners demanding to be able to return to school, saying that barring girls from education would leave an entire future nation uneducated.

“We ask them (Taliban) to reopen our schools as soon as possible,” said one protester, Nargis Jamshid, 17. She added that not going to school feels as if “we are moving backward.”

“We demand that all girls must return to their schools and all the women should be allowed to get back to their work,” said Sharaara Sarwari, 18.

After taking power in Afghanistan last month, the Taliban initially said girls would be given equal access to education, albeit in gender-segregated settings, and promised inclusivity but have since imposed several restrictions on women.

On Sunday, female employees in the Kabul city government were told to stay home, with work only allowed for those who cannot be replaced by men. On Friday, the Taliban-run education ministry ordered boys from grades six to 12 back to school, starting Saturday, along with male teachers — but made no mention of girls in those grades returning to school.

In their previous rule in the 1990s, the Taliban had barred girls and women from schools, jobs and public life.

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MORE ON AFGHANISTAN:

— Taliban-run Kabul municipality to female workers: Stay home

— Mourners in California honor 3 Marines killed in Afghanistan

Fearful US residents in Afghanistan hiding out from Taliban

Afghan survivors of errant US drone strike seek probe

Taliban replace ministry for women with ‘virtue’ authorities

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

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CAIRO — The extremist Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for a series of deadly bombings targeting Taliban vehicles in eastern Afghanistan.

The claim, published late Sunday on the militant group’s media arm, the Aamaq news agency, signals a growing threat to the Taliban by their long-time rivals.

At least eight people, including several Taliban fighters, were killed in the attacks on Sunday and Saturday in the provincial city of Jalalabad, an IS stronghold.

The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan in a blitz campaign last month, overrunning the capital of Kabul while U.S. and NATO were in the final phase of withdrawing their troops. The last foreign soldiers left Aug. 30.

The Taliban now face major economic and security challenges in trying to govern Afghanistan, and an accelerated campaign of IS attacks will further complicate those efforts. The Taliban and IS extremists were enemies before foreign troops left Afghanistan.

Both groups subscribe to a harsh interpretation of Islam, but the Taliban have focused on taking control of Afghanistan, while IS affiliates in Afghanistan and elsewhere call for global jihad.

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistani security forces said they killed in an operation on Monday a notorious Pakistani Taliban commander suspected of involvement in the killing of four women teachers in a former militant stronghold in the country’s northwest.

A military statement said Saif Ullah was involved in the February attack in the town of Mir Ali in North Waziristan province, which borders Afghanistan, when the four teachers were gunned down while traveling in a car.

The military said the suspect was also involved in past attacks on Pakistani security forces, construction engineers and kidnappings for ransom in the region.

The Pakistani Taliban, who are a separate militant group from the Afghan Taliban, have for years waged war against the government in Islamabad. They were also behind the 2012 attack that wounded Malala Yousafzai, who in 2014 became Pakistan’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate for her work as an advocate for young women’s education. Malala is the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel prize.

There are concerns that the Pakistani Taliban are becoming emboldened after the Afghan Taliban last month took power in Afghanistan as U.S. and NATO forces were in the final stages of their pullout from the country. Militants in Pakistan in general have in recent months stepped up attacks in North Waziristan, raising fears they are regrouping in the area, a former Taliban stronghold.

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KABUL, Afghanistan — The interim mayor of Afghanistan’s capital says many female city employees have been ordered to stay home by the country’s new Taliban rulers.

Hamdullah Namony told reporters on Sunday that only women who could not be replaced by men have been permitted to report to work. He says this includes skilled workers in the design and engineering departments as well as female attendants of public toilets for women.

Namony’s comments were another sign that the Taliban are enforcing their harsh interpretation of Islam, including restrictions on women in public life, despite their initial promises of tolerance and inclusion. During their previous rule in the 1990s, the Taliban had barred girls and women from schools and jobs.

The mayor says a final decision about female employees in Kabul municipal departments is still pending, and that they would draw their salaries in the meantime.

He says that before the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan last month, just under a third of close to 3,000 city employees were women who worked in all departments.

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