Taliban Special Forces in camouflage fired their weapons into the air on Saturday, bringing an abrupt and frightening end to the latest protest march in the capital by Afghan women demanding equal rights.
The women's march - the second in as many days in Kabul - began peacefully. Demonstrators laid a wreath outside Afghanistan's defence ministry to honour Afghan soldiers who died fighting the Taliban. "We are here to gain human rights in Afghanistan," said 20-year-old protester Maryam Naiby, report Hindustan Times.
As the protesters' shouts grew louder, several Taliban officials waded into the crowd to ask what they wanted to say.
The group say the Taliban targeted them with tear gas and pepper spray as they tried to walk from a bridge to the presidential palace.
But the Taliban maintain the protest got out of control, according Afghan media outlet Tolo news.
The women were calling for the right to work and to be included in the government. The Taliban say they will announce the make-up of their administration in the coming days.
The Taliban have said women can be involved in government, but not hold ministerial positions.
Flanked by fellow demonstrators, Sudaba Kabiri, a 24-year-old university student, told Hindustan Times that the Taliban interlocutor that Islam's Prophet gave women rights and they wanted theirs. The Taliban official promised women would be given their rights. But as the demonstrators reached the presidential palace, a dozen Taliban Special Forces ran into the crowd, firing in the air and sending demonstrators fleeing.
Footage showed women confronted by armed militants covering their mouths and coughing, and one demonstrator said the fighters had used tear gas and tasers against the participants. "They also hit women on the head with a gun magazine, and the women became bloody," said a demonstrator.
Clashes have meanwhile continued in the Panjshir Valley, north of Kabul, where resistance fighters have been thwarting efforts by the Taliban to exert control.
But there's been claim and counter-claim. The Taliban maintain they've taken control of two more districts and are heading for the centre of the province.
A spokesman for the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRF) said heavy fighting was continuing and thousands of Taliban had been surrounded.
The Panjshir Valley, home to between 150,000 and 200,000 people, was a centre of resistance when Afghanistan was under Soviet occupation in the 1980s and during the Taliban's previous period of rule.
The NRF's leader, Ahmad Massoud, praised protests by women in Herat, and said Panjshir continued to resist.
None of the claims by the NRF or the Taliban could be independently verified.