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Hundreds Of Protesters Demand Release Of Afghanistan's Foreign Reserves

Afghans demand the U.S. to unfreeze Afghan assets and money it has seized since the Taliban took over at a protest in Kabul on September 24.

Hundreds of people have protested in Kabul and other Afghan provinces demanding the release of billions of dollars in foreign reserves blocked abroad as the Taliban's newly installed regime struggles to contain a deepening economic crisis.

Following the collapse of the Western-backed government last month in the face of a blitz offensive by the militants, many governments froze assets and aid as they weighed what stance to adopt toward Afghanistan's new rulers, prompting a worsening of the economic situation and leaving millions struggling to afford spiraling prices.

It was not immediately clear whether the well-organized protests, which featured banners with messages printed in English, had been ordered by the Taliban, whose officials have stepped up demands for more than $9 billion in foreign reserves held abroad -- most of it in the United States -- to be returned.

But Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen tweeted in support of the protest, writing that "there is urgent need for unfreezing our asset to overcome the harsh poverty situation."

Protesters vented their anger at U.S. officials, with banners carrying slogans like "Ordinary Afghans should not pay the price for America's defeat."

The Taliban has accused officials from the toppled government of making off with millions of dollars as they fled Kabul.

Many parts of rural Afghanistan have been hit by a severe drought, while in the capital many government workers have been unpaid for weeks and banks have imposed strict limits on cash withdrawals.

People have been forced to wait for hours outside banks and are limited to taking out $200 or 20,000 afghanis a week.

The United Nations has said that at least 11 million people in Afghanistan will need urgent humanitarian assistance in the coming months.

With reporting by Reuters and dpa
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