Taliban hold first official news conference after Kabul takeover

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The Afghan Taliban said on Tuesday (August 17) they wanted peaceful relations with other countries and would respect the rights of women within the framework of Sharia law, as they held their first official news briefing since their shock seizure of Kabul.

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The Taliban announcements, short on details but suggesting a softer line than during their rule 20 years ago, came as the United States and Western allies evacuated diplomats and civilians the day after scenes of chaos at Kabul airport as Afghans thronged the airfield.

As they rush to evacuate, foreign powers are assessing how to respond to the changed situation on the ground after Afghan forces melted away in just days, with what many had predicted as the likely fast unravelling of women's rights.

During their 1996-2001 rule, also guided by Islamic law, or shariah, the Taliban stopped women from working and administered punishments including public stoning. Girls were not allowed to go to school and women had to wear all-enveloping burqas to go out.

Women would be allowed to work and study and "will be very active in society but within the framework of Islam," the movement's main spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said.

Mujahid said the Taliban would not seek retribution against former soldiers and members of the Western-backed government, adding the movement was granting an amnesty for former Afghan government soldiers as well as contractors and translators who worked for international forces.

He said private media could continue to be free and independent in Afghanistan and that the Taliban were committed to the media within their cultural framework.

He also said families trying to flee the country at the airport should return home and nothing would happen to them.

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