AFGHANISTAN Taliban militia appeared in full control of Kabul after it announced it was setting up an Islamic state and executed the former president, Mr Najibullah, as one of its first acts. Hundreds were killed in the fighting of the last few days.
Known as the "Butcher of Kabul", Mr Najibullah had been a virtual prisoner at a UN compound in Kabul for four and a half years of Najibullah and his brother Shahpur Ahmadzai were strung up from a concrete traffic-control post at the gates of the presidential palace as thousands crowded around to watch.
"We killed him because he was the murderer of our people," said Mr Noor Hakmal, a Taliban commander who entered the city overnight from Charasyab, south of Kabul.
Life appeared to have rapidly returned to normal elsewhere in the capital.
Najibullah (49) was ousted on April 15th, 1992, when the Islamic Mujahideen guerrilla forces closed in on Kabul after 14 years of civil war against a Soviet-backed communist government.
Government forces had abandoned the city hours before the Taliban entered around 1.00 a.m. (10.30 Irish time) yesterday.
Witnesses said streets were bustling with pedestrians, cyclists and cars, and shops and markets were open despite an Islamic holiday. The militia's tanks had pulled back to the side streets although fighters were still visible at key points.
People laden with belongings were seen returning to their homes in the eastern suburbs after fleeing earlier fighting.
All key government installations appeared to be in Taliban hands, including the Presidential Palace and the Ministries of Defence, Security and Foreign Affairs.
The movement announced just hours after the takeover that an interim six-man ruling council would now run the country. A declaration issued by the movement's supreme leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, and quoted by the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) news service named his deputy, Mullah Mohammad Rabbani, to head the council.
An earlier statement by Mullah Mohammad Omar carried by AIP declared Afghanistan a "completely Islamic state" where a "complete Islamic system will be enforced".
A Taliban commander, Mr Hakmal, said they were searching the city, for President Burhanuddin Rabbani, the prime minister, Mr Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and the military chief, Mr Ahmad Shah Masood.
Witnesses had earlier said government tanks, artillery and trucks loaded with soldiers had beaded north, apparently towards Jabal us-Sharaj, the headquarters of the military chief, Mr Masood, at the entrance to the Panjshir valley.
Afghanistan's ambassador to India said that Mr Rabbani and other members of his government were about 25 km north of Kabul. He said the government still controlled 13 of Afghanistan's 3 provinces.
A Taliban commander identified only as "Musa" said the International Committee of the Red Cross had asked the militia to protect civilians and not to retaliate or carry out executions.
He said Taliban was not out for revenge, however, and said an amnesty had been declared for all government soldiers and officers who surrendered. "Taliban will not take revenge. We have no personal rancour. If the people find someone responsible for crimes in the past we will judge him according to Islamic law," he said.
The UN peace envoy for Afghanistan, Mr Norbert Holl, expressed "deep dismay" at the executions, sources in Kabul said Mr Najibullah contacted them at 3.00 a.m. (11.30 Irish time) saying his guards had fled and pleading for security, but was taken away by force from the compound before anything could be done. AIP quoted Mullah Mohammad Omar as urging Kabul citizens not to leave their homes and asking those who had left to return. He said the Taliban would guarantee their lives and property.
Little is known of the one-eyed Mullah Mohammad Omar, who is in his 30s. The Taliban burst onto the Afghan scene in late, 1994 after it was formed by Islamic religious students led by him.