A member of Afghanistan’s national youth soccer team was among the people who were killed as they tried desperately to cling to a U.S. military plane evacuating people from Kabul, the country’s official sports federation said Thursday.
His name was Zaki Anwari, and he was 17.
On Monday, a crowd of Afghans surged onto the tarmac of the international airport in the frantic scramble to escape a country newly overrun by the Taliban. In a scene that shocked the world, and in just one wrenching moment encapsulated the chaos of America’s exit from Afghanistan, some of them chased aircraft carrying Americans and tried to climb onto their sides, wings and wheels.
The young soccer player was among them, the federation said.
“Anwari was one of hundreds of young people who wanted to leave the country and, in an incident, fell off an American military plane and died,” the group said in a statement on Facebook.
The sports community of Afghanistan was in grief, the statement said. It wished Zaki a place in heaven and offered a prayer that God grant his family, friends and teammates peace and patience as they mourn.
The federation posted photos of Zaki wearing his team’s red jersey — he was No. 10 — and standing on a soccer field. Another photo showed him in a suit and tie. Beside them were photos of an airborne U.S. military plane with what appeared to be a falling body and a single red rose.
Video taken on Monday showed at least two bodies dropping to the ground from an airplane shortly after it took off. The Pentagon confirmed that two people had died falling from the plane, and body parts were discovered in the landing gear of the aircraft after it landed in Qatar.
In a telephone interview on Thursday from Kabul, Aref Peyman, the head of media relations for the sports federation and for Afghanistan’s Olympic Committee, confirmed Zaki’s death.
Mr. Peyman said Zaki came from a low-income family in Kabul and had worked very hard to achieve his dream of being on the national soccer team while also attending school.
“He was kind and patient, but like so many of our young people he saw the arrival of the Taliban as the end of his dreams and sports opportunities,” Mr. Peyman said. “He had no hope and wanted a better life.”
Many Afghans took to social media to voice shock and anger.
“Shame on the Taliban,” wrote Marzieh Zal on the federation’s Facebook page.
Understand the Taliban Takeover in Afghanistan
Who are the Taliban? The Taliban arose in 1994 amid the turmoil that came after the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989. They used brutal public punishments, including floggings, amputations and mass executions, to enforce their rules. Here’s more on their origin story and their record as rulers.
Who are the Taliban leaders? These are the top leaders of the Taliban, men who have spent years on the run, in hiding, in jail and dodging American drones. Little is known about them or how they plan to govern, including whether they will be as tolerant as they claim to be.
How did the Taliban gain control? See how the Taliban retook power in Afghanistan in a few months, and read about how their strategy enabled them to do so.
What happens to the women of Afghanistan? The last time the Taliban were in power, they barred women and girls from taking most jobs or going to school. Afghan women have made many gains since the Taliban were toppled, but now they fear that ground may be lost. Taliban officials are trying to reassure women that things will be different, but there are signs that, at least in some areas, they have begun to reimpose the old order.
What does their victory mean for terrorist groups? The United States invaded Afghanistan 20 years ago in response to terrorism, and many worry that Al Qaeda and other radical groups will again find safe haven there.
“Rest in peace dear Zaki, I cannot believe you are not with us anymore,” wrote Mohammad Sharif Ahmadi in another post.
The rapid collapse of Afghanistan to Taliban control set off panic among many Afghans, including athletes, who feared a return of extremist religious rule would bring about the end of their careers and other opportunities.
One Olympic athlete, the sprinter Kamia Yousufi, 25, who carried Afghanistan’s flag at the Olympic opening ceremony in Tokyo, has since fled to Iran, media reports said. Mr. Peyman confirmed those reports.
President Biden has come under sharp criticism for how the U.S. military has withdrawn from Afghanistan after a 20-year occupation. Mr. Biden has defended his handling of the exit. In an ABC News interview, he was also asked about the people who died clinging onto the plane and dismissed the question.
“That was four days ago, five days ago,” he said.
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