Air force flight lands in Kabul to evacuate Indians
A special flight operated by the Indian Air Force just landed in Kabul to bring back stranded Indians, including embassy staff, according to people familiar with the developments.
Afghanistan has closed its airspace for civilian flights but military evacuations are being carried out with the help of US forces still stationed at the Kabul airport.
The special flight circumvented Pakistani airspace and flew over Iran. A month ago, when a similar flight brought back officials from the Indian consulate in Kandahar, Pakistan had not given over flight permission.
Meanwhile, at least five people were killed at the airport on Monday as hundreds of people stormed into the area to board planes leaving the Afghan capital, news agency Reuters reported citing eyewitnesses. It is not clear whether they died in firing or in a stampede. There were also reports of US troops firing in the air at the airport .
Earlier on Monday, an Air India spokesperson said the airspace over Afghanistan had been declared closed and no commercial aircraft could operate there. “Our scheduled flight to Kabul also cannot go,” the spokesperson added. Air India operated its last flight to Afghanistan on Sunday. AI 243 had to hold in the air for over an hour as gun-toting Talibs entered the capital city and security forces started surrendering. The Air Traffic Control staff too was not available to guide the flight, as the Talibs, who captured the country with stunning speed and ferocity, also started entering the Kabul airport just as the Air India flight was to land.
India had kept C 17 Globemasters on standby for evacuation missions. One of them was sent to Afghanistan on Sunday and a second one took off from the Hindon air force station on the outskirts of Delhi on Monday.
According to government officials, at least 200 Indian officials, comprising diplomats and security, are waiting to be evacuated. One official, who did not want to be identified, said, “Taking the staff from the embassy compound to the airport is also a challenge.”