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Chaos at Kabul airport

Chaos at Kabul airport
People try to get into Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan August 16, 2021. (Reuters)

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There have been scenes of panic at Kabul airport as desperate residents try to flee following the seizure of the Afghan capital by the Taliban.

Witnesses say at least three civilians died on Monday in the chaos at the airport, which is being secured by US troops. Some people tried to cling on to planes as they took off.

With scheduled flights suspended, many foreigners and Afghans are stranded.

The US and other countries are rushing to evacuate staff and allies.

On Sunday the Taliban declared victory after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled abroad and his government collapsed.

The militants’ return to rule brings an end to almost 20 years of a US-led coalition’s presence in the country.

Kabul was the last major city in Afghanistan to hold out against a Taliban offensive that began months ago but accelerated in recent days as they gained control of territories, shocking many observers.

The Islamist group was able to seize control after most foreign troops pulled out.

Following the Taliban’s seizure of Kabul, many people headed to the airport.

Evacuations of foreigners and some Afghans with links to foreign governments and organisations have been taking place, but passengers said rumours spread that even those without visas were being allowed to travel.

As huge crowds gathered, US forces reportedly fired into the air to disperse people who were trying to force their way onto planes. There were reports that some died in the stampede.

Video obtained by Afghan media outlets showed people clinging to the side of a plane as it began to taxi on the runway.

Another video appeared to show men falling from a plane that had taken off. Rakhshanda Jilali, a human rights activist who is trying to leave, said: “How can [the Americans] hold the airport and dictate terms and conditions to Afghans?”

“This is our airport but we are seeing diplomats being evacuated while we wait in complete uncertainty,” she told Reuters news agency.

The US has sent 6 000 troops to assist in the evacuation.

Thousands of American citizens, local embassy staff and their families, as well as other “vulnerable Afghan nationals” will be airlifted in the coming days, a US government statement said.

At the weekend US President Joe Biden defended the withdrawal of American troops, saying he could not justify an “endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict”.

More than 60 countries, including the US and the UK, have issued a joint statement saying the Afghan people “”deserve to live in safety, security and dignity”, and that security and civil order should be immediately restored.

They also called on the Taliban to allow anyone who wishes to depart to do so, and to keep roads, airports and border crossings open.

A Taliban spokesman said people would be allowed to return home from the airport, Reuters reported. (BBC)