Confusion over Indian evacuees’ status, reports suggest Taliban rounded them up

Published on Aug 21, 2021 02:17 PM IST

The Indians were rounded up by the Taliban and taken to some unknown location close to the airport for further checks, the people said. Following inquiries and checking of documents such as passports, the group was sent back to the airport on Saturday afternoon, the people added.

The biggest problem in the evacuation of Indians is the journey from different parts of the city to the airport as Kabul has been taken over by the Taliban, who have set up check posts across the capital. (REUTERS/File Photo/Representative Use)
The biggest problem in the evacuation of Indians is the journey from different parts of the city to the airport as Kabul has been taken over by the Taliban, who have set up check posts across the capital. (REUTERS/File Photo/Representative Use)

Confusion surrounded the status of some 150 Indians who were to be evacuated from Afghanistan following reports that they had been rounded up by the Taliban near Kabul airport on Saturday, hours after a military aircraft flew out another 80-odd Indians to Tajikistan.

The development was first reported on the website of the Afghan media outlet Etilaatroz and its sister publication Kabul Now, which cited a source as saying that more than 150 people, most of them Indians, had been “abducted”. The outlets subsequently quoted a Taliban spokesman as rejecting the allegations of abduction.

Etilaatroz also reported the Indians were safe and their passports were being checked before they were sent to the airport.

There was no official word from Indian officials on the development. The government has kept all details of the evacuation of Indian nationals from Afghanistan under tight wraps because of operational and security reasons.

People familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity that there were problems when a group of more than 200 people, including around 70 Afghan nationals and the remainder Indians, came to Kabul airport in a convoy late on Friday. The Taliban, who are outside the airport, stopped the group, following which most of the Afghans reportedly escaped.

The Indians were rounded up by the Taliban and taken to some unknown location close to the airport for further checks, the people said. Following inquiries and checking of documents such as passports, the group was sent back to the airport on Saturday afternoon, the people added.

The development occurred after an Indian military aircraft evacuated some 80 Indians from Kabul to the Tajikistan capital of Dushanbe. Another military aircraft is reportedly on standby at Dushanbe, which is being used as a transit point by the Indian Air Force because of the limited time slots available at Kabul airport, which is controlled by the US military.

The people cited above said the biggest problem in the evacuation of Indians is the journey from different parts of the city to the airport as Kabul has been taken over by the Taliban, who have set up check posts across the capital. Adding to the worries of the Indian side are reports that terrorists from Pakistan-based groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Haqqani Network are also present among the Taliban.

With the civilian side of Kabul airport still closed, all evacuations are being done from the military side, outside which thousands of Afghans have gathered in the hope of getting on board the flights being operated by countries such as the US and the UK. Numerous videos have emerged of Taliban fighters opening fire outside the airport to drive back people.

India evacuated its envoy, diplomats, officials, security personnel and some nationals on two C-17 heavy lift aircraft on Monday and Tuesday. It is believed more than 500 Indians are still in Afghanistan and the government is focused on their safe repatriation. A few hundred Afghan Sikhs and Hindus too will be repatriated to India.

The Taliban marched into Kabul on August 15 after the collapse of the Ashraf Ghani government. Most of the top leaders of the group, including Abdul Ghani Baradar, have returned to Afghanistan and are engaged in consultations of forming a government.

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