PROTESTERS defied the Taliban for a second day in Afghanistan, waving their national flag in scattered demonstrations. The fighters again responded violently as they faced down growing challenges to their rule.

A UN official warned of dire food shortages and experts said the country was severely in need of cash while noting the Taliban is unlikely to enjoy the international aid the civilian government they dethroned did.

In light of the challenges, the Taliban has moved quickly to suppress any dissent, despite its promises that it has become more moderate since it previously ruled Afghanistan with draconian laws.

A procession of cars and people near Kabul’s airport yesterday carried long black, red and green banners in honour of the Afghan flag, a banner that is becoming a symbol of defiance.

At another protest, in Nangarhar province, video posted online showed a bleeding demonstrator with a gunshot wound. Onlookers tried to carry him away.

In Khost province, Taliban authorities instituted a 24-hour curfew after violently breaking up another protest, according to information obtained by journalists monitoring from abroad.

The authorities did not immediately acknowledge the demonstration or the curfew.

Protesters also took the streets in Kunar province, according to witnesses and social media videos. The demonstrations, which came as Afghans celebrated Independence Day and some commemorated the Shiite Ashura festival, were a remarkable show of defiance after the Taliban fighters violently dispersed a protest on Wednesday.

At that rally, in the eastern city of Jalalabad, demonstrators lowered the Taliban’s flag and replace it with Afghanistan’s tricolour. At least one person was killed.

Meanwhile, opposition figures gathering in the last area of the country not under Taliban rule talked of launching an armed resistance under the banner of the Northern Alliance, which allied with the US during the 2001 invasion.

It was not clear how serious a threat they pose.