International

Several cling to US plane, 3 fall to death

IAF plane reaches Kabul to evacuate Indians

Kabul/Islamabad/New Delhi/Canberra, August 16 (UNI/Sputnik): Scenes of desperation were witnessed at Kabul airport on Monday as hundreds of people clung on to a moving US Air Force C-17 aircraft on the tarmac.

A video later showed three people falling to their deaths as the plane took to the skies.

Videos uploaded on social media showed hundreds of Afghan people running along with the C-17 on the tarmac as it began slowly wheeling to take off. Some people were seen clinging on to a small ledge near the landing gear.

Other videos showed the plane in the sky just after it had taken off, and some objects fell to the ground.

Later, pictures emerged on social media of locals collecting the bodies of three men who had fallen off while clinging to the wheels of the plane. The men fell to their deaths near Khairkahana area of Kabul.

Earlier, chaos reigned in Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport after gunshots were fired at the teeming crowds with reports that several people were killed and wounded, a day after the Taliban took over the country and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani left the country.

Tolo News showed videos of hundreds of people running on the tarmac in panic after the shooting. It later also showed purported photos of some people lying dead on the ground at the airport.

“Gunfire heard at Kabul airport. Reportedly shots have been fired at crowds seeking to board aircraft. Eyewitnesses report people killed or wounded in the shooting.”

It quoted witnesses to say that “several people were killed and wounded in a shooting at a crowded Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul”.

Kabul airport has been thronging with massive crowds since Sunday, following the Taliban takeover of the country, with people eager to leave. Videos and photos of people sleeping on the tarmac and crowding around planes were seen on social media.

On Monday, the airport announced it was suspending all commercial flights.

Kabul airport was overwhelmed on Sunday night with over 2,000 people hoping to board commercial flights leaving the country.

Pakistani foreign minister confers with Afghan politicians after power seizure by Taliban

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Monday met with a group of Afghan politicians who arrived in Islamabad the day before for a conference on Afghanistan, where the Taliban took over.

The Afghan delegation’s departure for Pakistan took place the same day as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani stepped down and fled the country hours after the Taliban entered Kabul. He said his resignation was aimed at preventing bloodshed as militants plotted to take over the Afghan capital by force.

Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem said that the movement had put an end to the 20-year war in the country.

An Indian Air Force plane reached Kabul on Monday to evacuate Indians stranded there, a day after a flight of Air India evacuated Indian as well as Afghan nationals.

According to sources, at least one C17 Globemaster aircraft of Indian Air Force landed in Kabul for evacuation. The IAF had kept its transport aircraft ready, even as closing of airspace in Afghanistan proved a challenge.

An Indian Air Force spokesperson however refused to comment whether it was involved in the evacuation operation, and said he had “no information to share”.

The flight will evacuate stranded embassy staff and others. Exact number of people waiting to be evacuated was not revealed.

The MEA announced on Monday that closing of Kabul airport has put a pause on the repatriation efforts.

Late on Sunday night, an Air India flight returned after evacuating 129 people, both Indian and Afghan nationals.

In a reply to the Rajya Sabha on August 5, Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan had said there are approximately 1,500 Indian nationals in Afghanistan, including the Government of India officials.

The Taliban entered Kabul on Sunday, after which President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.

Taliban has seized control of around 25 of 34 provincial capitals including cities such as Kandahar, Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif and Jalalabad.

Australia has already sent a plane carrying servicemen to Afghanistan to evacuate Australian citizens and visa holders from the country and will deploy a total of over 250 troops to assist the evacuation, the defense ministry said on Monday.

The ministry assessed the situation in Afghanistan as “highly volatile and dangerous” and pledged to take all necessary precautions to protect those authorised for evacuation.

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