Joy in the Streets After Taliban Flee Kabul

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Freshly shaven residents of the Afghan capital of Kabul blared music in the streets Tuesday, flouting the Spartan rules that an unwelcome Taliban, now departed, had so stringently imposed.

"We are free!" shouted Noor Mohammed, as he danced with the tape player pressed to his ear.

The hard-line Islamic militia fled Kabul on Tuesday as opposition forces aided by U.S. planes massed outside the city. Their withdrawal after a five-year occupation touched off celebrations throughout the city of more than one million people

"Look, this feels so good," Ahmed Shah said as he felt his newly shaven face. "I hated the beard. It was always itchy."

Elsewhere, residents of the Afghan capital peered through the open doors of abandoned Taliban military bases and whispered to each other: "Are they gone?"

In a rickety old bus, one woman briefly flipped her burqa, the all-enveloping traditional veil made mandatory by the Taliban, up over her head. Male residents who were gathering around a group of Northern Alliance soldiers laughed.

But more cautious women were not ready to abandon the head-to-toe covering. One young soldier gestured to the women to take their burqas off, but none did. Most of the women simply watched the soldiers, some closed the curtains that are on all buses that carry women in Afghanistan. Others simply looked away.

"For now we will leave the burqa on. We don't know yet who are these people in the city," said Mariam Jan.

Her husband, an ethnic Tajik, Mohammed Wazir, said "it is our tradition. We are not sure that it will stop."