Suicide bomber gunned down in Kabul as Taliban fighters gather for passports

 A would-be suicide bomber was shot dead on Thursday outside Kabul's main passport office, police said, as hundreds of Taliban fighters lined up for travel documents on a day reserved exclusively for their applications.

"He was identified and killed at a checkpoint at the entrance," Mobin Khan, spokesman for Kabul police, told AFP.

There have been several attacks against Taliban fighters since their return to power in August — most claimed by the local chapter of the Islamic State group.

Around 200 Taliban fighters had gathered at the passport office from dawn after authorities announced that Thursdays would be set aside exclusively for them to apply for passports.

It was unclear why the fighters wanted passports — or where they planned to travel to — as security operatives barred reporters from interviewing them.

READ | Islamic State uses Taliban's own tactics to attack Afghanistan's new rulers

Civilians who arrived to process their applications were held back or sent home by Taliban security, who also tore up documents of some as they pressed to enter.

"Issuing passports to the Taliban members was cancelled due to overcrowding," said Qari Shafiullah Tassal, a spokesman for the office.

Many people were also falsely claiming they had Taliban links, he told AFP.

Taliban fighters were also given the opportunity on Thursday to apply for passports in the southern city of Kandahar, according to an AFP reporter there.

Taliban authorities stopped issuing passports after the hardline group returned to power on August 15, citing staff issues, faulty equipment and a lack of supplies.

Operations resumed on Sunday but hundreds of thousands of Afghans are desperate to flee a growing humanitarian crisis in the country.



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