Afghans crowd at the tarmac of the Kabul airport on August 16, 2021, to flee the country as the Taliban were in control of Afghanistan after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country and conceded the insurgents had won the 20-year war. (AFP)

Three killed in Kabul Airport as Afghans scramble to escape Taliban

Witnesses reported seeing the prone, bloodied bodies lying on the ground just outside the terminal building.

The U.S. military took over security of the airport to facilitate a massive airlift of foreign diplomats and citizens after the Afghan government collapsed on Sunday. Those evacuation flights are processed on a separate military side of the airport.

Officials at the U.S. Central Command weren’t immediately available for comment.

Thousands of desperate Afghans—many of whom used to work for American forces—flocked to the airport as the victorious Taliban combed Kabul for those who had collaborated with the West. Rumors circulated that flights were taking passengers even without passports and tickets.

U.S. Marines fired warning shots late Sunday when hundreds of Afghans who breached the perimeter rushed to board an idling C-17 transport aircraft, a Western military official said.

According to people trapped in the airport, American troops repeatedly shot in the air to disperse the crowds during the night. Hundreds of Afghan civilians were seen close to the runway and around parked planes Monday morning, with some hanging from boarding ramps as they scrambled to get into the aircraft, hindering evacuation efforts.

The U.S. military used two military helicopters flying low overhead to try to disperse the crowds, using smoke grenades and firing shots into the air, passengers said.

There were roughly 6,000 American troops in the Kabul airport or headed there, U.S. military officials said Sunday. More remained on standby in Kuwait.

Inside the terminal, shops were looted, passengers said, adding to the sense of panic.

The Taliban entered Kabul on Sunday after President Ashraf Ghani left the country, effectively marking the end of a 20-year effort by the U.S. and other Western nations to remold Afghanistan into a modern democracy, only to see its armed forces collapse as American forces withdrew.

The Taliban said again Monday that they had issued orders to fighters—which they call mujahedeen, or holy warriors—that they couldn’t enter homes without owners’ permission.

“Life, property and honor of none shall be harmed but must be protected by the mujahedeen,” said Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban, on Twitter.

Separately, another Taliban spokesman, Mohammad Naeem, told the Al Jazeera channel that the form of the new government in Afghanistan would be made clear soon. He also said that the group wants peaceful relations with other countries.

In Kabul, and in some other places, nongovernmental organizations reported that their offices were visited by Taliban fighters, who told them to register their activities with the group.

The Taliban also went Monday to Tolo News, the country’s most prominent private news channel, asked about the weapons kept by the security team at the heavily fortified Tolo offices, and collected firearms that had been issued by the government, the channel said.

“So far they are polite,” Saad Mohseni, director of Tolo’s parent company, said on Twitter. “They have also agreed to keep the compound safe.”

European nations, including France and Germany, said they were moving to evacuate their citizens along with some local Afghan staff, while Russia and Turkey said they would maintain their embassies, as has China.

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Monday that 600 U.K. paratroopers and logistical staff had arrived in Kabul to help evacuate people.

About 300 U.K. passport holders have been evacuated. He told the British Broadcasting Corp. that a further 700 people would be evacuated in the next 24 to 36 hours, including Afghan nationals, with another 800 in a similar time period after that. He said the U.K. had the capacity to take out more than 1,000 people a day but that “processing speed” was limiting the numbers flying out.

Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority, meanwhile, said in a notice to air carriers that airspace had been released to the military and advised transit flights to reroute, saying there would be no air-traffic control.

The country’s airspace is regularly used by long-haul carriers. Flight tracking data Monday showed there were no commercial flights over Afghanistan.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text




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