Five dead as US Troops fire shots in the air at Kabul airport

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

  • At least five people have been killed at Kabul airport as thousands desperately try to flee Afghanistan
  • Hopeful passengers gathered on the tarmac at Kabul’s Hamad Kazai Airports hoping to leave the country
  • US troops fired warning shots in to prevent hundreds of civilians running onto the tarmac Monday morning 
  • Concerned westerners were seen at the airport as news came the country’s president had fled to Uzbekistan
  • Airport is the main point of evacuations out of Afghanistan, but all non-military flights have been grounded

At least five people have been killed in Kabul airport as hundreds of people tried to forcibly enter planes leaving Afghanistan after Taliban took control of the country and declared a new ‘Islamic Emirate’.

US troops fired shots in the air at Hama 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.

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. 

Afghanistan’s airspace is often used by long-haul carriers moving between the Far East and the West. Early Monday morning, flight-tracking data showed no immediate commercial flights over the country.

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

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.

Hundreds of Afghans were also seen desperately climbing the outside of airbridges as they tried to board commercial liners trying to flee the country.    

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

Video posted social media showed hundreds of people trying to climb the outside of airbridges to board commercial liners grounded in Hamad Karzai airport


By morning, 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


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


Thousands of Afghans were at Hamad Karzai airport desperately trying to flee the country after the Taliban swept the capital on Sunday

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.’

Several dozen French citizens are to be repatriated by plane from Afghanistan, French Armed Forces minister Florence Parly told France Info radio on Monday, as Western nations scrambled to evacuate their citizens. 

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.’ 

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

There were scattered reports of looting and armed men knocking on doors and gates. The Taliban freed thousands of prisoners as they swept across the country and the police melted away.

The Taliban deployed fighters at major intersections and sought to project calm, circulating videos showing quiet city streets.

‘There were a few Taliban fighters on each and every road and intersection in the city,’ Shah Mohammad, a 55-year-old gardener, said after coming to work in the diplomatic quarter. He said there was less traffic than usual and fewer people out on the streets.

Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesman, tweeted that fighters had been instructed not to enter any home without permission and to protect ‘life, property and honor.’  

The speed of the Taliban advance has taken almost everyone by surprise and Afghans who had booked commercial flights to escape the Taliban face being forced to remain in Afghanistan.

Westerners will be evacuated by their home nations on military flights but the Taliban has said that it will not allow Afghan citizens to leave.

Tens of thousands of interpreters and officials who helped the Western-backed Afghan government are desperate to escape the country for fear of reprisals by the Taliban.

Crowds gathered at Kabul airport trying to flee the country after the Taliban swept through the capital and effectively took power in Afghanistan


Cars clogged the streets of Kabul as thousands of Afghans desperately tried to flee the country as the Taliban swept the capital

On Sunday the US led more than 65 nations in urging the resurgent Taliban to let Afghans leave the country, warning of accountability for any abuses. 

‘The United States joins the international community in affirming that Afghans and international citizens who wish to depart must be allowed to do so,’ Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote on Twitter as the State Department released a statement signed by its close allies. 

‘Those in positions of power and authority across Afghanistan bear responsibility – and accountability – for the protection of human life,’ the joint statement said. 

A NATO official said all commercial flights had been suspended and only military aircraft were allowed to operate. The alliance said it was helping to keep the airport running (pictured: Scenes at Kabul airport) 

Harrowing pictures show people waiting near Kabul Airport’s runway to escape from the country’s capital – as the Taliban entered the presidential palace


Pictured: Chaotic scenes at Kabul airport as Taliban insurgents enter Kabul amid a withdrawal of western forces


Images show Kabul Airport descending into chaos as the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan continues

Scenes from the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul are pictured above

A NATO official said all commercial flights had been suspended and only military aircraft were allowed to operate. The alliance said it was helping to keep the airport running. 

Following a meeting of the Government’s Cobra emergencies committee on Sunday, Boris Johnson his priority was to get UK nationals and Afghans who had worked with them out of the country ‘as fast as we can’.

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.’ 

‘We are going to get as many as we can out in the next few days,’ he said.

Around 4,000 British nationals and eligible Afghans are thought to be in the city and in need of evacuation.

When the Operation Pitting rescue operation, involving 600 troops, was announced at the end of last week, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said it could carry on through the rest of the month.

However the speed of the Taliban advance suggests that there may only be a short window of a few days to get people out.

In a sign of the desperate situation the British ambassador Sir Laurie Bristow was said to be helping the small team of diplomats still in the country to process the applications of those hoping to leave.

There was particular concern for the safety of Afghans who worked with British forces when they were in the country as interpreters and other roles amid fears of reprisals if they fall into the hands of the insurgents.

The Taliban insisted that they were seeking a peaceful takeover of power and were prepared to offer an amnesty to those who had worked with the Afghan government or with foreign governments.

However those assurances were being treated with deep scepticism by many British MPs amid reports of threats to those who remain and their families.

Heavily armed Taliban fighters fanned out across the capital, and several entered Kabul’s abandoned presidential palace. 

Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesman and negotiator, said that the militants would hold talks in the coming days aimed at forming an ‘open, inclusive Islamic government.’

But he refused to guarantee that Afghans would be allowed to leave the country, telling the BBC: ‘We need all Afghans to stay’. 

He said Taliban forces would not attack NATO teams overseeing evacuations, but said aid organisations and foreign embassies should stay, saying ‘We won’t hurt them’.

Boris Johnson has vowed to get as many as possible of the Afghans who worked with the UK out of the country as the Taliban stood poised to take control of the capital Kabul.

With President Ashraf Ghani fled, and insurgent fighters surrounding the capital, the Prime Minister said the situation was ‘extremely difficult’.

After chairing a meeting of the Government’s Cobra contingencies committee he said the UK was determined to work with allies to prevent the country again becoming a ‘breeding ground for terror’.

Britain has sent 600 troops – including Paras from 16 Air Assault Brigade – to assist in the operation.

Meanwhile other Western countries were scrambling to get their people out, with helicopters shuttling from the US embassy to the airport while smoke was seen coming from the embassy rooftop as diplomats burned sensitive material.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken had said earlier on Sunday that US embassy staff were ferried by helicopter from the diplomatic compound to the airport, about  5km (3 miles) away on the northeastern side of the city.

‘We’re working to make sure that our personnel are safe and secure. We’re relocating the men and women of our embassy to a location at the airport,’ Blinken told ABC news.

Asked if the evacuation was evocative of the US departure from Vietnam in 1975, he said: ‘Let’s take a step back. This is manifestly not Saigon.’   

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

Sources told Reuters that most U.S staff were expected to be evacuated from Kabul in the coming day or two.

A NATO official said all commercial flights had been suspended and only military aircraft were allowed to operate. The alliance said it was helping to keep the airport running.

France and Germany, members of NATO, said on Sunday they were moving their diplomats to the airport and sending military transport planes to Kabul to evacuate their citizens and their Afghan helpers.

A US intelligence assessment earlier in the week had said Kabul could be encircled in 30 days and could fall to the Taliban within 90 days, but the insurgents captured most of Afghanistan’s major cities in less than a week and entered the capital on Sunday.

Some 4,200 people remained in the US embassy until Thursday, when the Taliban’s rapid gains forced the Biden administration to begin flying in thousands of troops to help pull out many of the remaining diplomats.

The Taliban standing on a roadside in Kandahar after taking over more parts of Afghanistan. The scale and speed of the Taliban advance has shocked Afghans and the US-led alliance that poured billions into the country

UK military personnel boarding an RAF Voyager aircraft at RAF Brize Norton on August 14, 2021 to travel to Afghanistan

People wait at the airport in Kabul as the Taliban roll back into the country’s capital 

Taliban are seen inside the presidential palace in Kabul amid a withdrawal of western forces

The deployment included an additional 1,000 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division, who President Joe Biden said on Saturday would help evacuate citizens and ensure an ‘orderly and safe’ drawdown of US military personnel.

On Sunday, US officials said they were weighing whether more troops were needed. Another 3,000 are on standby in Kuwait.

Washington invested billions of dollars over four US administrations in Afghan government forces, giving them advantages over the Taliban, but they were unable to defend the country in the face of the militants’ advance, Blinken told CNN.

The United States’ original mission in Afghanistan, launched to oust al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, had been fulfilled, Blinken said, saying Washington had prevented further attacks by militants harbored by the Taliban.

But Biden has faced rising domestic criticism after sticking to the plan to withdraw, which was agreed under his Republican predecessor Donald Trump. On Saturday, Biden defended his decision, saying an ‘endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable to me’.

Republican lawmaker Michael McCaul said a Taliban takeover would revive the threat to the United States.

‘We are going to go back to a pre-9/11 state. A breeding ground for terrorism,’ he told CNN on Sunday.

Biden met with his national security team on Sunday by secure videoconference from the presidential retreat at Camp David to hear updates on evacuations and the security situation, a White House official said.

US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat like Biden, said at a news conference that the safety of US personnel and of Afghans who supported the Americans should be Washington’s top concern.

‘Job number one is for us to bring back, first, all American personnel… But second, all of the brave Afghans who helped our military, they have to be provided an exit to come to America,’ Schumer said.

Source: Read Full Article