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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Taliban Defends Its Fierce Zealotry

KABUL -- Afghanistan's new Taliban regime reinforced its command of Kabul on Friday, denouncing foreigners and standing by its strict Islamic law.

The Central Asian state of Kazakhstan urged a hands-off policy towards Afghanistan and a senior Iranian cleric accused the Taliban of defaming Islam by imposing "fossilized" policies.

"Through their fossilized policies, they [Taliban] stop girls from attending school, stop women from working out of homes and all that in the name of Islam," Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati told worshippers at Tehran University.

A senior mullah from the Taliban on Friday defended the group's fundamentalist Islamic policies and accused outsiders and foreign media of waging a propaganda war against the country's new rulers.

In the first such sermon since the Taliban takeover a week ago, Syed Ghiasuddin, acting education minister, said human rights groups and foreign news agencies had been targeting the Taliban's imposition of a fundamentalist Islamic code.

"What we are doing is all based on Islamic Sharia law including amputating hands, executing and ordering people to the mosque five times a day," he said in a sermon at Kabul's main mosque.

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Taliban of seizing up to 1,000 prisoners in house-to-house searches in Kabul in what it called a reign of terror and said children and women were being ill-treated.

The Taliban entered the capital last Friday after a lightning offensive swept the forces of president Burhanuddin Rabbani out of the capital. His forces and those of a rival warlord remain holed up north of the capital.

On Friday, dozens of educated, middle-class people were scrambling to leave Kabul at dawn, fleeing what one called a prison built by the purist Islamic Taliban militia.

Few among those leaving for the eight-hour journey along a badly damaged road to the border were willing to talk as Taliban fighters wandered through the dusty bus station.

"They're looking for people who worked for the former government," said one man whose brother is an officer in the ethnic Tajik militia of former government military chief Ahmad Shah Masood.

Masood withdrew to his home base in the Panjsher Valley north of Kabul. The largely ethnic Pushtun Taliban have said they will attack him unless he surrenders.

The Taliban have issued decrees in the past week placing strict limitations on the activities of women, banning western dress, card-playing, music and television and vowing stern punishment for those found drinking alcohol, taking drugs or having illicit sexual relations.