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Taliban and Afghan flags side by side at ‘unity’ cricket match

Taliban and Afghan flags side by side at 'unity' cricket match

A near-full house turned out to watch Afghanistan’s top cricketers play in a trial match Friday, with Taliban and Afghan flags waving side by side in what sports officials called a show of national unity.

It was the first match since the Taliban swept to power on August 15, leaving organisers of sports and cultural events wondering what is now acceptable under the hardline Islamists’ rule.

The two sides — called Peace Defenders and Peace Heroes — featured many members of the Afghan national team, currently preparing for the Twenty20 World Cup to be played in UAE and Oman from October 17.

“It is great to be here and watch cricket,” a Taliban commander named Hamza told AFP at the stadium in Kabul, an American M-16 rifle slung over his shoulder.

He was in charge of a contingent of Taliban fighters keeping guard among the crowd — some watching the game more intently than the spectators.

“I am a player myself,” said Hamza. “An all-rounder.”

The return of the Taliban has sparked widespread…

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