US air force halts evacuations from Kabul to clear airfield of crowd: Report

Some people who tried to flee the country as stowaways in a US air force plane fell to their death as the mammoth flying machine took off.
Men try to get inside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on Monday(REUTERS)
Men try to get inside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on Monday(REUTERS)
Published on Aug 16, 2021 06:01 PM IST
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By | Written by Avik Roy, New Delhi

The US military put on hold its evacuation process from Kabul temporarily on Monday to clear the airfield at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Afghanistan's capital, news agency Reuters reported, citing senior defence officials.

An official, speaking to Reuters on the condition of anonymity, did not say how long the pause would last.

Horrific video shared on social media showed some people who tried to flee the country as stowaways, either by clinging on the belly or the wheels of a US air force plane, fell as the mammoth flying machine took off. Local reports claimed at least three people fell to their death.

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Thousands of Afghans were seen gathering at the international airport in Kabul, the only exit points out of the country not in control of the Taliban yet, in a last-ditch effort to leave the war-torn nation, even as the administration shut the civilian airspace over Afghanistan.

In the ensuing chaos, at least five people died at the airport earlier in the day, news agency Reuters reported citing eyewitnesses who said US troops stationed there fired gunshots into the air to prevent frantic locals from boarding a civilian aircraft.

WATCH: Panic at Kabul airport; US army fires in air as Afghans try to flee

On the other hand, the US state department announced on Monday that the administration of Kabul airport is in the hands of American forces.

Visuals shared on various social media platforms showed hundreds of people running across the airport tarmac American soldiers fired warning shots into the air. A crowd was seen trying to board an aircraft while many latched on to the railings of a staircase leading to an aerobridge.

Another video, shared by Tolo News on Twitter, showed a swarm of people running on the tarmac while some clung to the body of a US military aircraft as it taxied on the runway.

Panic gripped Kabul after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan's presidential palace on Sunday following President Ashraf Ghani's escape to a central Asian country. The Islamist insurgents were waiting to take over the Afghan capital. 

Even as Taliban have said no one would be “harmed”, thousands of people are desperate to flee the country. But many Afghans were apprehensive of the Taliban rule and feared the return of draconian practices with the imposition of Shariah. During Taliban's previous rule between 1996 and 2001, women could not work and kangaroo courts meted out ‘punishments’ such as public stoning, whipping and hanging.

The rapidity with which the Taliban took over various provinces of the country, 20 years after they were routed, has stunned the US officials. Just days before the Taliban fighters entered Kabul with barely any resistance, an American military analysis had predicted it could take months for the Afghan capital to fall.

A spokesperson for Taliban's political office, Mohammad Naeem told Al Jazeera television that the people of Afghanistan and the Taliban had just “witnessed the fruits of their efforts and sacrifices over 20 years”, as he declared that the “war is over."


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