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Afghanistan: Taliban strengthens its grip on the country with gunmen patrolling streets of Kabul

Victorious Taliban fighters patrolled Kabul on Monday after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan‘s 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city’s airport trying to flee the group’s feared hardline brand of Islamist rule.

It took the Taliban just over a week to seize control of the country after a lightning sweep that ended in Kabul as government forces trained for years and equipped by Britain, the United States and other Western nations at a cost of billions of dollars, melted away.

As the militants declared victory and claimed peace had been brought to the country, at least five people were killed in Kabul airport and another three reportedly died falling from a plane, while hundreds tried to forcibly enter aircraft leaving the Afghan capital, witnesses said.

One witness said he had seen the bodies of five people being taken to a vehicle. Another witness said it was not clear whether the victims were killed by gunshots or in a stampede.

U.S. troops, who are in charge of the airport, earlier fired in the air to scatter the crowd, a U.S. official said, but officials were not immediately available to comment on the deaths.

Meanwhile, refugees have been massing at the borders as people desperately try to flee Afghanistan before the Taliban’s brutal rules are implemented, with pictures from the country’s border with Pakistan showing hundreds of people queuing in an attempt to leave.

‘Today is a great day for the Afghan people and the mujahideen. They have witnessed the fruits of their efforts and their sacrifices for 20 years,’ Mohammad Naeem, the spokesman for the Taliban’s political office, told Al Jazeera TV. ‘Thanks to God, the war is over in the country.’

President Ashraf Ghani fled the country on Sunday night as the insurgents encircled the capital – saying he wanted to avoid bloodshed – capping a military victory that saw them capture all cities in just 10 days.

In a Facebook post, Ghani said he had left the country to avoid clashes with the Taliban that would endanger millions of Kabul residents. Some social media users branded Ghani, who did not disclose his location, a coward for leaving them in chaos.

‘The Taliban have won with the judgement of their swords and guns, and are now responsible for the honour, property and self-preservation of their countrymen,’ Ghani said after fleeing.

Taliban officials said they had received no reports of any clashes anywhere in the country: ‘The situation is peaceful,’ one official said. The Taliban controlled 90 percent of state buildings and fighters had been told to prevent any damage, the official added.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who fought in the Soviet-Afghan War during the 1980s and helped ex-chief Mohammad Omar create the Taliban in 1994, has already been installed as the head of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, according to reports in the Arab world.  

Video from Afghanistan’s parliament building showed Taliban fighters entering the main chamber today. The grainy footage showed fighters carrying weapons sitting at a table at the head of the chamber under the government’s seal, with some smiling and posing for photographs.

Pictured: Taliban fighters stand guard along a roadside near the Zanbaq Square in Kabul on August 16, 2021. Victorious Taliban fighters patrolled Kabul on Monday after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan’s 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city’s airport trying to flee the group’s feared hardline brand of Islamist rule

Pictured: People struggle to cross the boundary wall of Hamid Karzai International Airport to flee the country after rumors that foreign countries are evacuating people even without visas, after Taliban took control of Kabul, Afghanistan, August 16

Pictured: People struggle to cross the boundary wall of Hamid Karzai International Airport to flee the country after rumors that foreign countries are evacuating people even without visas, after Taliban took control of Kabul, Afghanistan, August 16

Pictured: 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

Pictured: 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

Pictured: US soldiers take up their positions as they secure the airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021

Pictured: US soldiers take up their positions as they secure the airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021

Pictured: Pakistan's soldiers check the documents of stranded Afghan nationals wanting to return to Afghanistan at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossing point in Chaman on August 16, 2021

Pictured: Pakistan’s soldiers check the documents of stranded Afghan nationals wanting to return to Afghanistan at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossing point in Chaman on August 16, 2021

Taliban fighters take control of Afghan presidential palace after the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country

Taliban fighters take control of Afghan presidential palace after the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country

British Forces from 16 Air Assault Brigade arrive in Kabul, Afghanistan, to provide support to British nationals leaving the country, as part of Operation PITTING after Taliban insurgents took control of the presidential palace in Kabul, August 15

British Forces from 16 Air Assault Brigade arrive in Kabul, Afghanistan, to provide support to British nationals leaving the country, as part of Operation PITTING after Taliban insurgents took control of the presidential palace in Kabul, August 15

Video from Afghanistan's parliament building showed Taliban fighters entering the main chamber today

The grainy footage showed fighters carrying weapons sitting at a table at the head of the chamber under the government's seal, with some smiling and posing for photographs

Video (pictured) from Afghanistan’s parliament building showed Taliban fighters entering the main chamber today. The grainy footage showed fighters carrying weapons sitting at a table at the head of the chamber under the government’s seal, with some smiling and posing for photographs

Pictured: A map of Kabul showing the locations of the Afghan Presidential Palace, the British Embassy and the airport

Pictured: A map of Kabul showing the locations of the Afghan Presidential Palace, the British Embassy and the airport

The chaos in Afghanistan’s capital comes as:

  • Britain’s ambassador to Afghanistan remains in Kabul, despite an SAS-backed operation to evacuate embassy staff amid a Taliban takeover of the city; 
  • The US ambassador and embassy staff fled Afghanistan after Taliban forces stormed Kabul;    
  • President Biden ordered about 5,000 troops to help evacuate US staff ‘and other allied personnel’;
  • PM Boris Johnson said said the US decision to withdraw from Afghanistan had ‘accelerated’ the crisis;
  • British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was forced to return to the UK from his holiday abroad; 
  • Tory MPs called fallout from Anglo-US withdrawal ‘Britain’s worst foreign policy disaster since Suez’;
  • MPs are expected to to vent their anger and frustration when they return to Westminster on Wednesday for an emergency recall of Parliament to discuss the crisis;
  • President Biden defended the withdrawal of US troops and blamed his predecessor Donald Trump for a deal that left the warlords ‘in the strongest position militarily since 2001’; 
  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted the scene in Afghanistan is not comparable to the fall of Saigon as he diverted blame for the Taliban takeover on Republicans;
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel said troops would be deployed to Afghanistan to evacuate German citizens and Afghans in danger from the Taliban; 
  • Several dozen French citizens are to be repatriated by plane from Afghanistan, French Armed Forces minister Florence Parly told France Info radio; 
  • New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called for the Taliban to uphold human rights and said the world was watching: ‘It’s going to be all about the actions, not the words’;
  • Russia said it saw no need to evacuate its embassy for the time being and said it would meet on Tuesday to decide whether to recognise the new government, while Turkey said its embassy would continue operations.

Government forces collapsed without the support of the US military, which invaded in 2001 after the September 11 attacks and toppled the Taliban for its support of Al-Qaeda.

But the United States ultimately failed to build a democratic government capable of withstanding the Taliban, despite spending billions of dollars and providing two decades of military support.

Russia said its ambassador to Afghanistan will meet with the Taliban in Kabul on Tuesday and that it will decide on whether to officially recognise the new government.

China on Monday said it is willing to develop ‘friendly relations’ with the Taliban after the Islamist hardliners seized control of Afghanistan.

‘China respects the right of the Afghan people to independently determine their own destiny and is willing to continue to develop… friendly and cooperative relations with Afghanistan,’ foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters. 

Pashtana Durrani from non-profit organisation Learn Afghanistan told BBC Breakfast on Monday that the Taliban have so far been unclear about how they intend to rule Afghanistan now they are in power.

‘In some places they are very nice to people and then there are places where they have been slitting throats,’ she told the morning show. ‘So I don’t want to trust them and I’m not trusting them for their word.

‘But at the same time, the first thing that they did yesterday – they stripped us of our flag. They brought down the flag. The second thing that they did, is they are in the process of changing the name of Afghanistan.

‘And at the same time we are being stripped of our political rights, our mobility rights, our social rights. So these are some immediate things that we know are going to happen, or are in the process of happening,’ she said.     

Pictured: Mullah Baradar Akhund, a senior official of the Taliban, seated with a group of men, makes a video statement, in this still image taken from a video recorded in an unidentified location and released on August 16, 2021

Pictured: Mullah Baradar Akhund, a senior official of the Taliban, seated with a group of men, makes a video statement, in this still image taken from a video recorded in an unidentified location and released on August 16, 2021

Taliban fighters stormed the ancient palace on Sunday and demanded a 'peaceful transfer of power' as the capital city descended into chaos

Taliban fighters stormed the ancient palace on Sunday and demanded a ‘peaceful transfer of power’ as the capital city descended into chaos

Russian ambassador to meet Taliban in Kabul Tuesday 

Russia said its ambassador to Afghanistan will meet with the Taliban in Kabul on Tuesday and that it will decide on whether to recognise the new government based on its conduct.

‘Our ambassador is in contact with the Taliban leadership, tomorrow he will meet with the Taliban security coordinator,’ foreign ministry official Zamir Kabulov said in an interview with the Ekho Moskvy radio station on Monday.

He said the talks between Moscow’s ambassador, Dmitry Zhirnov, and the Taliban would centre on how the group plans to provide security for the Russian embassy in the Afghan capital.

On Sunday, as the Taliban completed its military takeover of Afghanistan, Kabulov said that Russia had no plans on evacuating its embassy – though on Monday he said that ‘part’ of its staff would be ‘evacuated’.

Kabulov also said that Moscow will decide on recognising the new Taliban government based ‘on the conduct of the new authorities’.

‘We will carefully see how responsibly they govern the country in the near future. And based on the results, the Russian leadership will draw the necessary conclusions,’ Kabulov said.

In recent years, Russia has sought to reach out to the Taliban and has hosted Taliban representatives in Moscow several times, most recently last month.

Moscow is closely watching for a potential spillover of the instability into neighbouring ex-Soviet Central Asian countries where Russia maintains military bases. 

Reporting by AFP 

After police and other government forces gave up their posts in Kabul on Sunday, Taliban fighters took over checkpoints across the city and entered the presidential palace.

Militants with rifles slung over their shoulders were also seen walking Monday through the streets of the Green Zone, the formerly heavily fortified district that houses most embassies and international organisations.

The Taliban sought to reassure the international community that Afghans should not fear them, and they will not take revenge against those who supported the US-backed alliance.

In a message posted to social media, Taliban co-founder Abdul Ghani Baradar called on his fighters to remain disciplined after taking control of the city.

‘Now it’s time to test and prove, now we have to show that we can serve our nation and ensure security and comfort of life,’ he said.

The Taliban’s capture of the capital had occurred, as in many other cities, without the bloodshed that many had feared.

But there were desperate scenes at Kabul’s airport on Monday as people tried to board the few flights available.

‘We are afraid to live in this city,’ a 25-year-old ex-soldier said as he stood among huge crowds on the tarmac. ‘Since I served in the army, the Taliban would definitely target me.’

The United States had sent 6,000 troops to the airport to ensure the safe evacuation of embassy staff, as well as Afghans who worked as interpreters or in other support roles.

Other governments had also organised charter flights.

The US government said Monday it had secured the airport, but there was still chaos with witnesses reporting American soldiers firing in the air to warn off crowds.

Authorities then cancelled all remaining commercial flights because of the chaos.

‘There will be no commercial flights from Hamid Karzai Airport to prevent looting and plundering. Please do not rush to the airport,’ the Kabul airport authority said in a message sent to reporters.

The United States had earlier released a statement with more than 65 nations urging the Taliban to let Afghans leave the country, warning of accountability for any abuses.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged the Taliban and all parties to ‘exercise restraint’ and said the rights of women and girls, who suffered under the previous Taliban regime, must be protected.

The Taliban imposed an ultra-strict interpretation of sharia law during their 1996-2001 rule.

This included banning girls from schools and women from working, while people were publicly stoned to death for adultery. 

As people scrambled to escape Afghanistan, neighbouring Pakistan’s state-run airline said on Monday it has halted all flights to Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul because of the ‘uncertain security situation’ there.

Spokesman Abdullah Hafeez said Monday that Pakistan International Airlines decided to protect passengers, the crew and the planes after consulting the Afghan civil aviation authorities.  

Pakistan’s interior minister said on Sunday the country had closed the Torkham border point with Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of the Afghan border facility.

Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said the decision to close the Torkhan border was taken due to due to an extraordinary situation on the other side. Ahmed told the local Geo television that the border was closed when Afghan police surrendered to the Taliban.

Ahmed said the Chaman border point with Afghanistan remains open.

Pakistan has already said that it cannot bear any load of new Afghan refugees in the wake of crisis in the war-torn country. Pakistan is about to complete fencing along the long, porous border, saying the step has been taken to check the militants’ movement across the border. 

Pictured: Taliban forces patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 16, 2021. Taliban officials said they had received no reports of any clashes anywhere in the country as they took control in little over a week

Pictured: Taliban forces patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 16, 2021. Taliban officials said they had received no reports of any clashes anywhere in the country as they took control in little over a week

After police and other government forces gave up their posts in Kabul on Sunday, Taliban fighters took over checkpoints across the city and entered the presidential palace. Pictured: Taliban fighters in Kabul, August 16, 2021

After police and other government forces gave up their posts in Kabul on Sunday, Taliban fighters took over checkpoints across the city and entered the presidential palace. Pictured: Taliban fighters in Kabul, August 16, 2021

Taliban fighters ride on a police vehicle outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 16, 2021

Taliban fighters ride on a police vehicle outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 16, 2021

Taliban stands guard outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport as people walk to the airport to flee the country after rumors that foreign countries are evacuating people even without visas, in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 16, 2021

Taliban stands guard outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport as people walk to the airport to flee the country after rumors that foreign countries are evacuating people even without visas, in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 16, 2021

Taliban members patrol the streets of Afghan capital Kabul on August 16, 2021, as the Taliban takes control of Afghanistan after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country

Taliban members patrol the streets of Afghan capital Kabul on August 16, 2021, as the Taliban takes control of Afghanistan after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country

A Taliban fighter sits on his motorcycle along a roadside at Shahr-e Naw in Kabul on August 16, 2021

A Taliban fighter sits on his motorcycle along a roadside at Shahr-e Naw in Kabul on August 16, 2021

A US Chinook helicopter flies over the city of Kabul as diplomatic vehicles leave the compound after the Taliban advanced on the Afghan capital, August 15

A US Chinook helicopter flies over the city of Kabul as diplomatic vehicles leave the compound after the Taliban advanced on the Afghan capital, August 15

Al Jazeera broadcast footage of what it said were Taliban commanders in the presidential palace with dozens of armed fighters.

Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem said the form of the new regime in Afghanistan would be made clear soon, adding the Taliban did not want to live in isolation and calling for peaceful international relations.

‘We have reached what we were seeking, which is the freedom of our country and the independence of our people,’ he said. ‘We will not allow anyone to use our lands to target anyone, and we do not want to harm others.’

Many Afghans fear the Taliban will return to past harsh practices in their imposition of sharia religious law. During their 1996-2001 rule, women could not work and punishments such as stoning, whipping and hanging were administered.

Both the United Nations and the United States said last week they had received reports that Taliban fighters were executing surrendering government soldiers.

A Taliban leader the insurgents were regrouping from different provinces, and would wait until foreign forces had left before creating a new governance structure.

The leader, who requested anonymity, said Taliban fighters had been ‘ordered to allow Afghans to resume daily activities and do nothing to scare civilians’. 

Central Kabul streets were largely deserted early on a sunny Monday as waking residents pondered their future.

‘I’m in a complete state of shock,’ said Sherzad Karim Stanekzai, who spent the night in his carpet shop to guard it. ‘I know there will be no foreigners, no international people who will now come to Kabul.’

The militants sought to project a more moderate face, promising to respect women’s rights and protect both foreigners and Afghans.

Pictured: A Pakistan's army soldier stands guard as people arriving from Afghanistan make their way at the Friendship Gate crossing point at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border town of Chaman, Pakistan August 16, 2021

Pictured: A Pakistan’s army soldier stands guard as people arriving from Afghanistan make their way at the Friendship Gate crossing point at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border town of Chaman, Pakistan August 16, 2021

Pictured: People arriving from Afghanistan make their way at the Friendship Gate crossing point at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border town of Chaman, Pakistan August 16, 2021

Pictured: People arriving from Afghanistan make their way at the Friendship Gate crossing point at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border town of Chaman, Pakistan August 16, 2021

Travelers enter in Pakistan through a border crossing point in Chaman, Pakistan, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. A special flight of Pakistan's national airline PIA has arrived in Islamabad carrying 329 passengers from Kabul, and another carrying 170 people will arrive later today

Travelers enter in Pakistan through a border crossing point in Chaman, Pakistan, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. A special flight of Pakistan’s national airline PIA has arrived in Islamabad carrying 329 passengers from Kabul, and another carrying 170 people will arrive later today

Pakistan's newspapers are pictured displaying front page news about Afghanistan, at a stall in Islamabad on August 16, 2021 after the Taliban were in control of Afghanistan after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country and conceded the insurgents had won the 20-year war

Pakistan’s newspapers are pictured displaying front page news about Afghanistan, at a stall in Islamabad on August 16, 2021 after the Taliban were in control of Afghanistan after President Ashraf Ghani fled the country and conceded the insurgents had won the 20-year war

Boris Johnson urges the West NOT to recognise Taliban government 

Boris Johnson is urging western countries to not recognise the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan and says the country must not become a ‘breeding ground for terror’, after he was seen posing for pictures with Team GB Olympians. 

The Prime Minister has earlier posed for publicity pictures with athletes at an event in London as Downing Street said ministers and senior officials would meet on Sunday afternoon to discuss the worsening situation.

And it emerged Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab had flown back to Britain from his overseas holiday, breaking his silence on the war-torn country. He said the world must tell the Taliban ‘the violence must end and human rights must be protected’. 

The Foreign Office refused to say where the Foreign Secretary was but said he was expected to land in the UK today. 

Following an emergency meeting of Cobra yesterday, Mr Johnson called for a ‘united position among the like-minded’ and said it was ‘clear’ there is ‘going to be very shortly a new government in Kabul, or a new political dispensation’.

He said the situation in Afghanistan remains ‘difficult’, and the Government’s priority is ‘to make sure we deliver on our obligations to UK nationals in Afghanistan, to all those who have helped the British effort… over 20 years and to get them out as fast as we can.’ 

He told Sky News: ‘We don’t want anybody bilaterally recognising the Taliban, we want a united position amongst all the like-minded, in as far as we can get one, so that we do whatever we can to prevent Afghanistan lapsing back into being a breeding ground for terror.’ 

Western nations, including the UK, France, Germany and New Zealand said they were working to get citizens as well as some Afghan employees out. Russia said it saw no need to evacuate its embassy for the time being while Turkey said its embassy would continue operations. 

Britain’s Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the military side of Kabul airport was secure and that Britain was doing everything it could to evacuate British citizens and Afghans with links to Britain.

‘Our target is… about 1200 to 1500 exit a day in the capacity of our airplanes, and we’ll keep that flow,’ he said.

Britain has relocated its embassy to Kabul airport from the city. Asked what he would feel to see the Taliban flag flying over the former British embassy building in Kabul, Wallace said:

‘Symbolically, it’s not what any of us wanted.’ 

MP Tobias Ellwood, former captain in the British Army and chairman of the defence select committee, criticised the West for pulling out of Afghanistan.

Appearing on Sky News, he said: ‘The world is now a little bit more dangerous because they’ve now taken control of the country, and the West should really hang its head in shame after abruptly abandoning Afghanistan to a civil war after two decades of effort.’

He added: ‘This is not a good day for the West at all, and China will be observing things very, very closely indeed. They are already making alliances with the Taliban and glossing over the human rights atrocities that are likely to unfold.’  

The European Union said it is working with member states to find quick solutions for the relocation of local Afghan staff and their families to a safe place, a spokesperson said.

‘The matter is extremely urgent, we take it very seriously and continue to work hard, together with EU member states, on implementing rapid solutions for them and ensure their safety,’ the spokesperson for the bloc’s executive Commission told Reuters.

The Commission does not give figures for their local Afghan staff for security reasons.

German parliamentary sources said on Monday that chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is planning to deploy soldiers to Afghanistan to help with the evacuation of German nationals and Afghans in danger from the Taliban.

The government is planning to seek a mandate from parliament to allow the deployment of as many as ‘several hundred soldiers’, the sources told AFP, citing a briefing by Merkel to leaders of parliamentary groups late Sunday.

Several dozen French citizens are to be repatriated by plane from Afghanistan, French Armed Forces minister Florence Parly told France Info radio.

Sweden said it had completed the evacuation of all its Swedish embassy staff from Kabul on Monday, and is now working on plans to get local employees and those who have supported its activities out of the country.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called for the Taliban to uphold human rights and said the world was watching: ‘It’s going to be all about the actions, not the words.’ 

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged all parties to exercise the utmost restraint, and expressed particular concern about the future of women and girls.

In Washington, opponents of President Joe Biden’s decision to end America’s longest war, launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, said the chaos was caused by a failure of leadership.

Biden has faced rising domestic criticism after sticking to a plan, initiated by his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, to end the U.S. military mission by Aug. 31.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell blamed Biden for what he called a ‘shameful failure of American leadership’.

Naeem said the Taliban would adopt an international policy of two-way non-interference. ‘We do not think that foreign forces will repeat their failed experience.’ 

The US government has insisted in recent days that its two decades of war in Afghanistan was a success, defined by quashing the Al-Qaeda threat.

President Joe Biden also said he was determined there was no choice but to withdraw American troops, as he would not ‘pass this war’ onto another president.

But Washington was left shocked by the rapid collapse of the Afghan government, and critics have said the United States’ reputation as a global power has been badly tarnished.

‘America’s credibility as an ally is diminished,’ said Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States. 

A U.S. State Department spokesperson said early on Monday that all embassy personnel, including Ambassador Ross Wilson, had been transferred to Kabul airport, mostly by helicopter, to await evacuation and the American flag had been lowered and removed from the embassy compound.

Hundreds of Afghans invaded the airport’s runways in the dark, pulling luggage and jostling for a place on one of the last commercial flights to leave before U.S. forces took over air traffic control on Sunday.

‘This is our airport but we are seeing diplomats being evacuated while we wait in complete uncertainty,’ said Rakhshanda Jilali, a human rights activist who was trying to get to Pakistan, told Reuters in a message from the airport.

Crowds thronged into the airport as morning broke and U.S. forces fired into the air to stop people surging onto the tarmac to try to board a military flight, a U.S. official said.

Dozens of men tried to clamber onto an overhead departure gangway to board a plane while hundreds of others milled about, a video posted on social media showed.

There was the prospect of chaos in the skies over Afghanistan too. Its civil aviation authority advised transit aircraft to reroute saying its airspace was uncontrolled.

The Pentagon on Sunday authorized another 1,000 troops to help evacuate U.S. citizens and Afghans who worked for them, expanding its security presence on the ground to almost 6,000 troops within the next 48 hours. 

Terror at Kabul airport: At least five killed amid chaotic scenes as US troops fire shots into the air to quell crowd of thousands trying to flee Afghanistan with some desperate Afghans climbing up airbridges to get on to planes out of capital

By Lauren Lews for MailOnline

Three stowaways are reported to have fallen to have fallen to their deaths from one airborne plane and a further five people have been killed at Kabul airport as thousands of Afghans try desperately to get on flights out of the country amid increasingly chaotic scenes. 

US troops fired shots in the air at Hamad Karzai airport to prevent hundreds of civilians running onto the tarmac after they took over Afghanistan’s air traffic control. Witnesses said it was not clear whether the victims were killed by gunshots or in a stampede.  

Footage published by Aśvaka showed three stowaways falling to the deaths after clinging on to the wheels of a military plane as it took off from Kabul airport. 

Panicked Afghans were also seen climbing up the outside of an airbridge in a bid to get onboard planes and chasing a US military C-17 down the runway. Video also showed hundreds of people running alongside – and in front of – a US Air Force plane preparing to take off.

At least five people have been killed at Kabul airport as thousands of people desperately try to flee the country

Witnesses said it was not clear whether the victims were killed by gunshots or in a stampede

At least five people have been killed at Kabul airport as thousands of people tried desperately to get on flights out of Afghanistan amid increasingly chaotic scenes. Witnesses said it was not clear whether the victims were killed by gunshots or in a stampede

All commercial services have been suspended, with only military flights leaving the country as the UK, US and other western countries repatriate their citizens. 

It comes as the Ministry of Defence confirmed the first British nationals had landed at RAF base Brize Norton after being evacuated from Kabul.  

The Taliban swept into the capital on Sunday after the Western-backed government collapsed and President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, bringing a stunning end to a two-decade campaign in which the US and its allies had tried to transform the country. 

The US Embassy has been evacuated and the American flag lowered, with diplomats relocating to the airport in scenes reminiscent of the evacuation of the embassy of Saigon in 1975. Other Western countries have also closed their missions and are flying out staff and civilians.  

Almost all major checkpoints in Kabul were under Taliban control by Monday morning and Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority issued an advisory saying the ‘civilian side’ of the airport had been ‘closed until further notice’ and that the military controlled the airspace. 

Taliban officials said everyone would be allowed to return home from Kabul airport if they decide to stay in the country and promised civilians would not be harmed. The group previously said westerners would be allowed to leave the country but that Afghans would be barred from departing. 

US troops are guarding the airport and have taken over air traffic control, but all non-military flights are grounded. Early Monday morning, flight-tracking data showed no immediate commercial flights over the country.

Video posted social media showed hundreds of people scampering with their luggage toward the safety of the airport terminal with the sound of gunfire breaking out.   

US troops fired shots into the air at Kabul airport today as desperate Afghans climbed up the outside of airbridges trying to flee as the Taliban took control of Afghanistan. Pictured: People climb the outside on an airbridge, August 16, 2021

US troops fired shots into the air at Kabul airport today as desperate Afghans climbed up the outside of airbridges trying to flee as the Taliban took control of Afghanistan. Pictured: People climb the outside on an airbridge, August 16, 2021

US troops are guarding the airport and have taken over air traffic control, but all non-military flights are grounded

Soldiers fired warning shots in the air to prevent hundreds of civilians running onto the tarmac

US troops are guarding the airport and have taken over air traffic control, but all non-military flights are grounded. Soldiers fired warning shots in the air to prevent hundreds of civilians running onto the tarmac, a US official said

The Taliban swept into the capital on Sunday after the Western-backed government collapsed and President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, bringing a stunning end to a two-decade campaign in which the US and its allies had tried to transform the country. 

The US Embassy has been evacuated and the American flag lowered, with diplomats relocating to the airport in scenes reminiscent of the evacuation of the embassy of Saigon in 1975. Other Western countries have also closed their missions and are flying out staff and civilians.  

Almost all major checkpoints in Kabul were under Taliban control by Monday morning and Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority issued an advisory saying the ‘civilian side’ of the airport had been ‘closed until further notice’ and that the military controlled the airspace. 

Taliban officials said everyone would be allowed to return home from Kabul airport if they decide to stay in the country and promised civilians would not be harmed. The group previously said westerners would be allowed to leave the country but that Afghans would be barred from departing. 

US troops are guarding the airport and have taken over air traffic control, but all non-military flights are grounded. Early Monday morning, flight-tracking data showed no immediate commercial flights over the country.

Video posted social media showed hundreds of people scampering with their luggage toward the safety of the airport terminal with the sound of gunfire breaking out. 

American soldiers fired warning shots in the air to prevent hundreds of civilians running onto the tarmac, a US official said.

The crowd was out of control,’ the official told Reuters by phone. ‘The firing was only done to defuse the chaos.’ 


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