Two stowaways who plummeted to their deaths from an airborne plane in Kabul on Monday were teenage watermelon sellers, according to reports on Afghan social media.
Video from Hamid Karzai International Airport on the day showed Afghans desperately scrambling to escape the city by clinging onto the evacuating U.S. military aircraft after the Taliban took control of the country.
But in horrifying footage taken from below the plane, at least two people were seen falling through the air from the C-17 aircraft after it had taken off. Three who clung to the outside of the aircraft are believed to have died.
According to the reports two – aged just 16 and 17 – who sold fruit and scavenged in the bins of Kabul’s markets to provide for their mother, who is now left with no other children after they fell to their deaths.
The bodies of the teenagers – believed to be brothers – have been returned to their parents, the reports said.
The identities of the people who fell from the C-17 are officially unknown, but one Twitter user posted later that the teenagers were his aunt’s neighbours.
‘Genuinely in tears right now. Two young boys who fell whilst clinging onto U.S. planes were my Aunts neighbours. Both boys aged 16 & 17, bodies have just been brought home to their parents,’ the user wrote on Monday.
‘Both boys would sell watermelons in Kabul markets and feed off the bins to survive and provide for their mother. The 2 boys were their mother’s only children. She has no other family and has no idea how she will survive under Taliban regime.’
Separate footage was captured on Monday by one of a dozen men who were seen on wheel housing of the American C-17 military transport plane as it taxied towards the runway. A number of those seen in the video look to be young men, clinging on for dear life and watching as crowds of people lined the tarmac.
It is not known what became of the man who filmed the video or those who appeared in it, but horrifying footage taken on board a similar jet reveals how one was crushed to death in the landing gear – his legs dangling sickeningly from the side of the aircraft.
The horrifying scenes will likely become the defining image of America and NATO’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, a debacle that has seen President Biden accused of ‘humiliating’ his country on the world stage and western allies shamed for ‘abandoning’ Afghans who assisted their failed fight to install democracy in the country.
MONDAY: Footage published by Afghan outlet Aśvaka showed stowaways falling to the deaths after clinging on to the wheels of a military plane as it took off from Kabul airport. According to reports on Afghan social media, two young boys – aged 16 and 17 – plummeted to their deaths from a plane on Monday
MONDAY: Video footage emerged showing a dozen men – some young – clinging to the landing gear of a US evacuation jet flying out of Kabul airport as pandemonium unfolded after the Taliban seized the capital
MONDAY: Thousands of Afghans raced onto the tarmac at Kabul airport before some jumped on the side of a US C-17 jet which was flying hundreds of diplomatic staff and visa holders out of the country
TODAY: Taliban gunmen have surrounded the airport (pictured) with gunshots fired over the heads of arriving passengers, with British forces admitting that evacuations are only taking place with their ‘consent’
The Taliban returned to power last weekend after capturing much of the country in a matter of days, less than three weeks before the U.S. plans to complete its full troop withdrawal.
Their conquest of Kabul on Sunday sparked a mass-panic as people feared a return of the brutal regime seen when the group last controlled in the country from 1996 to 2001, with thousands trying to escape via the airport.
As foreign nations evacuated their own citizens who were living and working in Kabul, Afghans rushed onto the tarmac in an attempt to secure passage on planes out of Afghanistan and climbed onto the outside of the plane.
In chaotic footage from the airport, many people were seen clinging to the U.S. military C-17 Globemaster III plane as it prepared to take off, and as it taxied down the runway.
The United States Air Force (USAF) later confirmed human remains were found in the wheel well of a C-17 aircraft that left Kabul on Monday, and announced an investigation had been launched into the incident at the airport.
The plane was taking off from Hamid Karzai International Airport after delivering equipment to aid the evacuation of Americans and allied personnel from Kabul.
‘The aircraft was surrounded by hundreds of Afghan civilians who had breached the airport perimeter,’ said USAF in a statement issued on Tuesday evening.
‘Faced with a rapidly deteriorating security situation around the aircraft, the C-17 crew decided to depart the airfield as quickly as possible. Human remains were discovered in the wheel well of the C-17 after it landed at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar.
‘The aircraft is currently impounded to provide time to collect the remains and inspect the aircraft before it is returned to flying status.’
In chaos on the ground, at least five more people were killed, including two shot dead by US troops and three run over by taxiing jets.
At least 56,000 people need to be flown out of Afghanistan, including 22,000 using American special immigration visas and 4,000 Britons – though the true number is likely to be far higher once staff at dozens of embassies in the capital are taken into account.
Germany and Canada have said they will take 30,000 refugees between them, and some in the US have warned 80,000 visas may need to be granted to all those they have promised sanctuary – such as translators and informants, who now live in fear of Taliban reprisals. The UK has said it will take in 20,000 refugees.
The Taliban has declared an ‘amnesty’ across the country on Wednesday, urging people to return to their homes while vowing that government staff and women will be protected, and even invited to join the government.
Pictured: Afghans desperately tried to climb onto the rear right wheel of the US Air Force C-17 on Monday in a last ditch attempt to flee the country after the Taliban swept to power
Footage appeared to show the horrifying sight of a man’s body crushed in the landing gear of a US jet on Monday, with officials confirming that human remains were found after the aircraft made an emergency landing
Panicked screams mixed with the sound of gunfire were heard at Kabul airport on Wednesday amid fresh chaos as thousands of Afghans desperate to escape Taliban rule pleaded with troops to be allowed on the only planes out of the country.
Women were filmed reaching their hands through iron railings towards US troops while screaming ‘the Taliban are coming’ in footage being circulated on Afghan social media accounts this morning.
Meanwhile more footage captured gunshots ringing out among crowds at the airport’s north gate overnight and this morning as men, women, and children huddled nearby, barely flinching as bullets were fired into the sky.
Taliban gunmen have now surrounded the airport – the only route out of Afghanistan for thousands of refugees stranded in the capital and nearby provinces – and are checking the documents of those trying to reach it.
That means that Afghan translators and others holding visas that would allow them on the evacuation flights are in hiding close to the airport, afraid to break cover and try to reach the runway in case the Taliban hauls them away.
In a sign of how dire the situation has become, White House spokesman Jen Psaki was forced to admit on Tuesday that there is no guarantee that all US citizens and visa holders will be able to leave the country before troops pull out on August 31.
‘Our focus right now is on the task at hand, and that is day by day getting as many American citizens, SIV applicants, as many of the vulnerable population who are eligible to be evacuated to the airport and out on planes,’ she said.
Flights that were supposed to be carrying thousands of people out of the country each day have so-far been taking off with just a few hundred aboard, with the UK evacuating some 370 people between Sunday and Monday.
General Sir Nick Carter, head of the UK armed forces, told BBC Radio 4 that Britain ‘hopes’ to get 1,000 people out today with seven evacuation flights going into the country – though was forced to admit that is only possible due to ‘collaboration’ with the Taliban.
He also flatly denied reports that people are struggling to get to the airport, saying: ‘Subject to the situation remaining calm, which the Taliban are working hard to achieve alongside us, the system will work.’
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce today that the UK will take 25,000 Afghan refugees over five years including 5,000 this year – though it is unclear how exactly those people will get out of the country.
Such an operation would take months to complete at the current rate, even assuming all those who want to leave can reach the airport, and it is unclear how long the Taliban will allow the current airport amnesty to last.
Meanwhile the US has said it may issue up to 80,000 special immigrant visas to provide a route out of the country for its Afghan allies,
Tempers were already fraying around the airport on Tuesday as gunmen opened fire into crowds, with harrowing images showing a young child with a bloodied head being carried by a man while a woman lay wounded in the road behind them.
While thousands of people have arrived at Kabul airport trying to get on flights out of the country (pictured), some western visa holders on the ground have said they are in hiding nearby for fear Taliban gunmen will target them
Taliban gunmen patrol through crowds of desperate Afghans at Kabul airport today, as people try to board planes out of the country fearing for their safety under Islamist rule
Pictured: Taliban fighters on a pick-up truck (L) move around a market area, flocked with local Afghan people at the Kote Sangi area of Kabul on August 17, 2021, after Taliban seized control of the capital following the collapse of the Afghan governmen
Pictured: A general overview of a market place, flocked with local Afghan people at the Kote Sangi area of Kabul on August 17, 2021
The race to get out of Kabul: What is the situation in Afghanistan and how many people are being evacuated?
The Taliban have seized power in Afghanistan two weeks before the US was set to complete its troop withdrawal after a costly 20-year war. Here is the latest:
- The Taliban, who ran Afghanistan in the late 1990s, have again taken control after the Western-backed government that has run it for 20 years collapsed
- The Taliban’s deputy leader and co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar arrived in Kandahar Tuesday after 20 years of exile, landing in the insurgent group’s former capital just days after they took control of the country.
- It comes as the Taliban held a press conference in which it insisted it would respect women’s rights – but women’s rights but ‘within Islamic law’
- They insisted would not exact revenge, which the group insisted they ‘want to live peacefully’ after taking control of Afghanistan
- Thousands of people are racing to Kabul Airport which is one of the last routes out of the country amid fears the Taliban could carry out revenge attacks
- Tens of thousands of people need evacuating – including some 22,000 on US special immigrant visas, 6,000-7,000 British nationals and Afghan allies, and 10,000 refugees that Germany has said it will accept
- Some people are so desperate that they clung to the side of a military jet as it took off and then plunged to their deaths yesterday – at least seven died
- At least 12 military flights took off from Kabul today
- Britain has carried out three MoD military flights so far today amid hopes they can get 6,000-7,000 people out in total
- RAF planes are taking people to other stable parts of the Middle East where they can get charter flights back to the UK
- Eleven aircraft of five different types are believed to be shuttling in and out of Kabul – the RAF Voyager Tanker (Airbus A330 MRTT), Boeing C-17 Globemaster III, Lockheed C-130 Hercules and Airbus A400M Atlas
- 900 British armed forces are in Afghanistan to bring UK nationals home and secure safety of some Afghans
- 370 UK embassy staff and British nationals were flown out by the MoD on Sunday and yesterday, while 289 Afghan nationals were taken out last week
- A further 350 British and Afghans will be taken out of the country in the next 24 hours, UK Government says
- The US may issue up 80,000 special immigrant visas to those who helped with its combat operations
- 7,500 troops currently guarding the airport – including 6,000 Americans and smaller numbers of British, Turkish and Australians – will also need to leave
- Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called for G7 leaders to hold a virtual meeting ‘in the coming days’
- Defence Minister Ben Wallace says the Taliban takeover is a ‘failure of the international community’
- Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says UK must work with ‘challenging’ partners on dealing with Taliban
- US President Joe Biden called the situation ‘gut-wrenching’ but rejected blame for what’s happening
- The Taliban now say they want to form an ‘inclusive, Islamic government’ with other factions – and are holding negotiations with senior politicians
- Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has already fled the country after the Taliban reached Kabul on Sunday
The Taliban took over the civilian side of the Kabul international airport on Tuesday and have used force to try to control the crowds.
Hundreds of people were outside the airport early Wednesday. The Taliban demanded to see documents before allowing the rare passenger inside.
Many of the people outside did not appear to have passports, and each time the gate opened even an inch dozens tried to push through. The Taliban fired occasional warning shots to disperse them.
The Taliban have promised a new era of peace and security, saying they will forgive those who fought against them and grant women full rights under Islamic law, without elaborating. But many Afghans are deeply skeptical of the group, especially those who remember its previous rule, when it imposed a harsh interpretation of Islamic law.
At that time, women were largely confined to their homes, television and music were banned, and suspected criminals were flogged, maimed or executed in public.
The group also hosted Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida in the years before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. The U.S.-led invasion drove them from power and scattered al-Qaida, but the Taliban then launched a potent insurgency against the U.S. and the Western-backed government.
The Taliban now say they will prevent Afghanistan from again being used as a base for attacks, something that was enshrined in a 2020 peace deal with the Trump administration that paved the way for the American withdrawal.
The U.S. Embassy has meanwhile relocated to the military side of the airport, where it is coordinating the air lift of diplomats, foreigners and Afghans who worked with the Americans and now fear reprisal.
The British government said it will welcome up to 5,000 Afghan refugees this year, and a total of 20,000 Afghans will be offered a way to settle in the U.K. in the coming years.
‘We owe a debt of gratitude to all those who have worked with us to make Afghanistan a better place over the last 20 years,’ Prime Minister Boris Johnson said late Tuesday.
The head of Afghanistan’s Central Bank meanwhile said the country’s supply of physical U.S. dollars is ‘close to zero.’
Afghanistan has some $9 billion in reserves, Ajmal Ahmady tweeted, but most is held outside the country, with some $7 billion held in U.S. Federal Reserve bonds, assets and gold.
Ahmady said the country did not receive a planned cash shipment amid the Taliban offensive.
‘The next shipment never arrived,’ he wrote. ‘Seems like our partners had good intelligence as to what was going to happen.’
He said the lack of U.S. dollars will likely lead to a depreciation of the local currency, the afghani, hurting the country’s poor. Afghans have been lining up outside ATM machines for days, with many pulling out their life savings.
Ahmady said the Taliban will struggle to access the country’s reserves because of international sanctions.
The ‘Taliban won militarily – but now have to govern,’ he wrote. ‘It is not easy.’
The US army’s General Frank McKenzie is leading 6,000 US troops and 900 British soldiers who are trying to evacuate as many as 50,000 Afghan refugees and thousands of other foreign citizens, including aid workers and diplomats, who live in Kabul.
For the moment, the Taliban say they are giving ‘amnesty’ to foreigners who wish to leave. But amid tense scenes at the capital, which fell to insurgents with astonishing rapidity, fears are growing that the tentative calm could fall apart at any moment.
Vice Admiral Sir Ben Key, who is running the British evacuation operation, told the BBC the UK will be bringing back as many people as it can, as quickly as possible, until either demand is met or ‘the security situation means that we’re no longer operating with consent’.
But eligible individuals have to make the trip to the airport themselves when called to do so, and the Taliban now control the access points, he added.
Sir Ben said that his forces face a race against time, and they are ‘alive to the uncertainty’ of the situation.
The White House today confirmed that the Taliban had promised that civilians could travel safely to the Kabul airport, but reports of insurgents beating and shooting Afghans trying to enter could rattle the uneasy deal between the country’s new rulers and their Western adversaries.
Hero’s welcome for Baradar the Butcher: Taliban co-founder arrives in Afghanistan after 20-year exile
The Taliban have posted a triumphalist video seemingly showing one of its cofounders arriving to a hero’s welcome in Kandahar and locals cheering on his motorcade.
The group says the footage shows Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar returning to cheering crowds in Afghanistan on Tuesday following 20 years of exile amid the Western effort to eliminate the Taliban threat.
On Sunday his forces had taken Kabul, and Baradar, head of the Taliban’s political office, is now tipped to become the country’s next leader, following the collapse of the previous US-backed regime.
The 53-year-old had been deputy leader under ex-chief Mullah Mohammed Omar, whose support for Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden led to the invasion of Afghanistan following the September 11 terror attacks.
Around a dozen people joined Baradar on the flight and were noisily welcomed on the runway
Baradar arrived in Kandahar Province on Tuesday, landing in the insurgent group’s former capital just days after they took control of the country.
Taliban spokesman Dr M Naeem uploaded footage of his flight landing and of a motorcade of 4x4s bearing the white flag of the organisation.
He wrote: ‘This afternoon, a high-level delegation from the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan headed by Mullah Baradar Akhund left Qatar and arrived in our beloved country this afternoon and landed at Kandahar Airport.’
Baradar (pictured) set up an Islamic school in Kandahar with his former commander Mohammed Omar, and the two mullahs helped to found the Taliban movement
Commentators have pointed out similarities between Baradar’s return and that of Ayatollah Khomeini to Iran in 1979, following 14 years of exile in Paris as an outlawed cleric.
Baradar, who was born in Uruzgan province in 1968, was raised in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban movement, and went on to fight with the mujahedeen against the Soviets in the 1980s.
Afterwards, as the country was gripped by a civil war between rival warlords and Baradar set up an Islamic school in Kandahar with his former commander Mohammed Omar, and the two mullahs helped to found the Taliban movement, an ideology which embraced hardline orthodoxy and strived for the creation of an Islamic Emirate.
The Taliban seized power in 1996 after conquering provincial capitals before marching on Kabul, just as they have in recent months, and Baradar went on to perform a number of different roles during the group’s five-year reign.
He was the deputy defence minister when the US invaded in 2001, and though he went into hiding, he remained active in the Taliban’s leadership in exile.
Baradar had been freed from jail in Pakistan three years ago at the request of the U.S. government. Just nine months ago, he posed for pictures with Donald Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to sign a peace deal in Doha which now lies in tatters.
In 2010, the CIA tracked him down to the Pakistani city of Karachi and in February of that year the Pakistani intelligence service (ISI) arrested him. But in 2018, he was released at the request of the Trump administration as part of their ongoing negotiations with the Taliban in Qatar, on the understanding that he could help broker peace.
In February 2020, Baradar signed the Doha Agreement in which the U.S. pledged to leave Afghanistan on the basis that the Taliban would enter into a power-sharing arrangement with President Ashraf Ghani’s government in Kabul.
He was pictured in September with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who ‘urged the Taliban to seize this opportunity to forge a political settlement and reach a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire,’ the US said in a statement.
Pompeo ‘welcomed Afghan leadership and ownership of the effort to end 40 years of war and ensure that Afghanistan is not a threat to the United States or its allies.’
The Doha deal was heralded as a momentous peace declaration but has been proved to be nothing but a ploy by the Taliban.