Source: Jackie Salo

They’re taking their favorite weapons out on the water.

More than two dozen Taliban fighters, armed with rocket launchers and assault rifles, were seen riding in colorful, swan-themed pedal boats at Band-e Amir National Park in the eastern Bamiyan province of Afghanistan Saturday.

In one of the photos shared to Twitter by reporter Jake Hanrahan, a Taliban fighter appears to be aiming a rocket-propelled grenade.

The deep blue lakes in the heart of the country had been considered a relative safe haven before the militant group’s takeover last month.

“This park serves as an icon for the identity of the Afghan people for essentially a beacon of stability for three decades of chaos that they went through,” Alex Dehgan, formerly with the Wildlife Conservation Society, told CNN in 2019.

James Willcox, founder of UK-based tour company Untamed Borders, said it had once been safe enough to bring visiting groups.

Taliban forces have commandeered pedal boats in Bamyan Province at the Band-e Amir National Park.
Taliban forces have commandeered pedal boats at the Band-e Amir National Park in Bamyan Province.

“Every time we take people [to Band-e-Amir], they have a great day,” Willcox told CNN at the time.

“Most people’s impression of Afghanistan is that it’s dry desert, full of just war and terror and misery and fundamentalism. Whereas all those things exist, but lots of other things exist as well … The general sort of banality of life doesn’t happen on the news, but it goes on all around us.”

Afghanistan’s new rulers have seen growing conflict with the even more extreme ISIS-K, who have a stronghold in the eastern Nangarhar province.

The lakes were considered to be a safe haven in Afghanistan before the Taliban took power in August of 2021.
The lakes were considered a safe haven in Afghanistan before the Taliban took power in August 2021.

Explosions on Saturday in the city of Jalalabad left three dead, at least some of whom were Taliban members.

Protests are also occurring across the country in response to the Taliban’s new ban on girls returning to school.