Armed Taliban Fighters Patrol Lakes on Colorful Swan Pedalos
Militants spotted brandishing rocket launchers at Band-e Amir National Park
Armed Taliban fighters have been spotted riding colorful swan-themed pedalos while patrolling the lakes of Band-e Amir National Park in Afghanistan.
The militants were pictured riding the peddle-powered vessels while brandishing rocket launchers and assault rifles.
The park contains a series of six stunning deep blue lakes situated in the Hindu Kush mountains and was once a hotspot for international travelers and domestic tourists.
The park is situated roughly 45 miles from Bamiyan - formerly the home of the Buddhas of Bamiyan, which the Taliban destroyed in 2001.
The sighting comes as protests take place across Afghanistan over the ban on girls returning to school.
Afghanistan's new Taliban rulers are now facing protests over the treatment of women and girls, just one month after overtaking the country's capital Kabul.
The terrorist group set up a ministry for the "propagation of virtue and the prevention of vice" in the building that once housed the Women's Affairs Ministry.
Female employees in the Kabul city government have been told to stay home, with work only allowed for those who cannot be replaced by men, the interim mayor of Afghanistan's capital said, detailing the latest restrictions on women by the new Taliban rulers.
The decision to prevent most female city workers from returning to their jobs is another sign that the Taliban, who overran Kabul last month, are enforcing their harsh interpretation of Islam despite initial promises by some that they would be tolerant and inclusive.
On Saturday the Taliban excluded girls from returning to high school but ordered boys and male teachers back to the classroom, again breaking their promise to bring about a less severe brand of rule than their 1990s predecessors.
During their previous rule of Afghanistan in the 1990s, the Taliban had denied girls and women the right to education and barred them from public life.
A statement from the education ministry last Friday demanded: "All male teachers and students should attend their educational institutions."
It made no mention of female teachers or pupils.
Some Afghan women are now protesting the return to repression, with boys also refusing to attend class in solidarity.
One boy was pictured in a Twitter post holding a sign that says: "We don't go to school without our sisters."
Afghans voiced their support for the child in the post's replies, with one saying: "Education is the right of every Afghan.
"We hope that the Taliban will allow our sisters to open schools as well."
High schools, typically teaching teenage pupils and often segregated by sex in Afghanistan, had to close repeatedly during the coronavirus pandemic and have remained closed since the Taliban took over.
Primary schools have reopened, with boys and girls mostly attending separate classes and some female teachers going back to work, and the regime has also allowed women to attend private universities - but with harsh restrictions on their clothes and movement.
In Kabul on Friday, workers raised a sign for the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice at the old Women's Affairs building in the capital.
Videos posted to social media showed female ministry workers protesting outside after losing their jobs.
Officials in the new ministry said they had not been informed whether a new women's ministry was being planned.
Now the United Nations says it is "deeply worried" for the future of girls' schooling in Afghanistan.
"It is critical that all girls, including older girls, are able to resume their education without any further delays," the UN's children's agency UNICEF said.
"For that, we need female teachers to resume teaching."
It comes as three explosions targeted Taliban vehicles in the eastern provincial capital of Jalalabad on Saturday, killing three people and wounding 20, witnesses said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the Islamic State group's militants, headquartered in the area, are enemies of the Taliban.
The Taliban are facing major economic and security problems as they attempt to govern, and a growing challenge by IS militants would further stretch their resources.
In Kabul, a new sign was up outside the women's affairs ministry, announcing it was now the "Ministry for Preaching and Guidance and the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice."