Eyewitnesses have told the BBC that at least two civilians have been killed as hundreds of people attempting to leave Afghanistan continued to gather at Kabul’s international airport following the Taliban’s takeover of the country, BBC reports.
US troops, who have taken over the airport as evacuations out of the city continue, had reportedly fired in the air to scatter the crowds earlier on Monday morning. Reuters news agency puts the death toll higher, with one witness saying he had seen the bodies of five people being carried to a vehicle. Another said it was unclear whether the victims had been shot or killed in a stampede.
Meanwhile, the US military has secured the site and is taking over air traffic control to evacuate American and allied staff BBC reports Other countries are also evacuating staff including the UK. But commercial flights have mostly been suspended, stranding hundreds of Afghans and other foreign nationals.
The Taliban claimed victory after the government collapsed on Sunday. President Ashraf Ghani has fled abroad.
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.
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”.
Following the Taliban’s seizure of Kabul, many people headed to the airport.
One video taken by an Afghan journalist on Monday showed crowds running to the airport terminal with children and luggage in tow.
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UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told the BBC that Kabul airport was divided into a commercial side – which has largely ground to a halt – and a military side, which has now been secured and is working for the various countries evacuating staff.
The US has sent 6,000 troops to assist in the operation.
Thousands of American citizens, locals embassy staff and their families, as well as other “vulnerable Afghan nationals” will be airlifted in the coming days, a US government statement said.
On Sunday night footage showed hundreds of people running to try to get on the last commercial flights out of the city.
Pictures showed crowds of Afghans waiting on the tarmac while US troops stood guard on Monday morning. At one point the soldiers fired in the air to “defuse the chaos”, a US official told Reuters