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KABUL: Two gunmen were shot dead in the Afghan capital Thursday near the site of a gathering by thousands of religious scholars called to endorse the Taliban’s hardline Islamist rule.

Taliban officials said the two started firing from a rooftop near where the meeting was taking place, but were “quickly eliminated by Mujahideen with the help of Allah the Almighty”.

Officials have provided scant details of the three-day men-only “jirga” — a traditional gathering of influential people that settles differences by consensus — and the media is also barred from attending.

Some speeches are being broadcast on state radio — with clerics calling for absolute loyalty to the Taliban’s rule.

“Obedience is the most important principle of the system,” Habibullah Haqqani, the head of the gathering, said in his opening remarks.

Men will represent women at gathering for national unity: Taliban leader

“We must obey all our leaders in all affairs, sincerely and truly, and should obey in a good manner.”

The gathering comes a week after a powerful earthquake struck the east of the country, killing over 1,000 people and leaving tens of thousands homeless.

Even before the quake, the Taliban were struggling to administer a country that had long been in the grip of economic malaise, utterly dependent on foreign aid that dried up with the overthrow of the Western-backed government in August 2021.

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