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Taliban Pose for Victory Selfies in Afghan City

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By ROBERT MACKEY SEPT. 28, 2015

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    Selfie With a Talib

    In a video clip sent to the Afghan television channel Tolo on Monday, a resident posed with a Taliban fighter in the city of Kunduz after the insurgents expelled government forces.

    By TOLO TV on Publish Date September 28, 2015. Photo by Tolonews. Watch in Times Video »
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    As some veteran foreign correspondents pointed out, watching Taliban insurgents storm into the northern Afghan city of Kunduz on Monday and declare their intention to govern according to Islamic law seemed to echo the way the city was taken by Western-backed, Islamist mujahedeen in 1988, just days after the withdrawal of Soviet troops.

    Then, as now, Afghan government forces vowed to retake the city swiftly, as a superpower that controlled the skies above the country seemed unable to impose its will on the ground.

    There is, however, one obvious difference between the Islamists of the two eras. The Taliban of the 21st century, armed with mobile phones and Internet connections, moved quickly to declare victory on social networks before an expected counteroffensive from government troops massed at an air base on the outskirts of the provincial capital.

    One image posted on Twitter by Zabihulla Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, showed fighters waving the white flag of their movement in the town’s center.

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    د کندز ښارد فتحې په مناسبت د اسلامي امارت دمقام اعلامیه http://t.co/g4pEs45dw6 pic.twitter.com/tuTfoecVh8

    — zabihulla.mujahid (@ZabihullaM) Sept. 28, 2015

    Within hours of the entering of Kunduz, photographs and video of Taliban fighters roaming at apparent ease, and posing beside their flag with residents, spread on Facebook and Twitter.

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    Taliban and Maneuver of Power! #Kunduz pic.twitter.com/3lDUGR21GU

    — Muslim Shirzad (@MuslimShirzad) Sept. 28, 2015
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    #Kunduz resident are taking selfie with Taliban members in city center. pic.twitter.com/7asUZ0fNPr

    — Mustafa Deveci (@Mustafa_DVC) Sept. 28, 2015
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    Taliban with police vehicles in the streets of Kunduz city pic.twitter.com/aFVm8uxxSQ

    — Mirwais Afghan (@Miirwais) Sept. 28, 2015
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    Fighters in hospital. pic.twitter.com/eAeekSvxJN

    — Muslim Shirzad (@MuslimShirzad) Sept. 28, 2015
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    وضعیت در کندز به گونه است که #طالبان با داکتران در شفاخانه #کندز عکس یادگاری می گیرند pic.twitter.com/xfdwAGtoqk

    — Saleha Soadat (@SalehaSoadat) Sept. 28, 2015

    One observer in the city even had to persuade a Taliban fighter to look up from his own phone to pose with him for a brief video selfie, posted on the Facebook page of Tolo TV, a popular Afghan satellite channel.

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    رجل من مدينة قندز يأخذ سيلفي مع احد مجاهد #طالبان A Civilian of Kunduz City takes selfie with a #Taliban Mujahid haha pic.twitter.com/Als3DA4ePS

    — أنصار إمارة إسلامية (@AnsarImarat1) Sept. 28, 2015

    In the clip, as the fighter posed with a man who seemed to be a fan of the group — or thought it best to act like one — he calmly explained that the militants planned to impose Islamic law, or Shariah. “We want to say that we want to serve here and people should cooperate with us,” he said, according to a translation by Ahmad Shuja of Human Rights Watch in Kabul. “We want to implement Shariah. It is our wish to build madrasas, schools, pavements and roads.”

    Within four hours, copies of the clip posted on Facebook by Tolo TV had been viewed more than 200,000 times.

    Although some residents told reporters by telephone that they had remained in their homes, and some families fled the city, the militants seemed eager to convey the impression that they had been welcomed.

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    Taliban Maneuver in Kunduz City. pic.twitter.com/TpynPboC08

    — Muslim Shirzad (@MuslimShirzad) Sept. 28, 2015

    Bethany Matta, a freelance journalist who reported from Kunduz for Al Jazeera recently, suggested that the propaganda value of Taliban fighters pictured in the center of a major Afghan city they were forced to surrender 14 years ago might even have been one of the goals of the operation.

    Goal of Taliban is to take city, even if just for five mints. Pics of fighters circulating on social media of capture/retreat is power enuf

    — Bethany E. Matta (@BethanyMatta) Sept. 28, 2015

    #auto

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