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640 people flee Kabul in packed US military plane

KABUL (TTI News) – United States (US) Air Force military cargo plane, designed to take 150 passengers, has landed in Qatar by carrying around 640 Afghan refugees.

The photo showed that Afghan citizens crammed inside the US Air Force C-17 Globemaster 111.

According to the Defense One, the US military and security website, the flight from the Afghan capital to Qatar had one of the largest number of passengers on board a military aircraft used by the US Defense forces or its allies in almost 30 years.

At least seven people were killed in Kabul airport as hundreds of people tried to forcibly enter planes leaving the Afghan capital, witnesses told.

One witness said he had seen the bodies of seven people being taken to a vehicle. Another witness said it was not clear whether the victims were killed by gunshots or in a stampede.

Dramatic footage posted on social media showed a scene of chaos on the runway, with civilians frantically clambering up an already overcrowded and buckling set of airstairs.

It was a desperate bid to board a parked passenger plane and escape the city a day after the government’s collapse.

Hundreds of people run alongside a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane as it moves down a runway of the international airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug.16. 2021. Thousands of Afghans have rushed onto the tarmac of Kabul’s international airport, some so desperate to escape the Taliban capture of their country that they held onto an American military jet as it took off and plunged to death. (Verified UGC via AP)

As a crowd of hundreds watched on, those who successfully climbed the stairs helped others up, while some hung from the stair railings by their hands.

Panicked families trying to flee the capital carried overpacked luggage, with frightened children in tow.

The situation caused such a commotion that US troops fired into the air to restore order and all commercial flights were cancelled.

“I feel very scared here. They are firing lots of shots into the air,” the witness said, asking not to be named in case it jeopardised his chances of leaving.

The US State Department said American troops had secured the perimeter of the airport as they evacuate embassy employees and thousands of Afghans who worked for Washington’s interests since they toppled the Taliban in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

The US embassy in Kabul tweeted to tell American nationals and Afghans to “not travel to the airport”.

But thousand more Afghans — even some with no links to the US-led coalition — showed up in the hope of getting out, even without tickets or visas for foreign destinations.

The bedlam at the airport came just hours after Taliban leaders ordered their fighters into Kabul to maintain order as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.

“We are afraid to live in this city and we are trying to flee Kabul,” said a 25-year old man who also asked to be identified only as Ahmed.

Many of the arrivals were fuelled by rumours, or fake news spread on social media.

“I read on Facebook that Canada is accepting asylum from Afghanistan,” said Ahmed.

“Since I served in the army… there is danger. The Taliban would definitely target me.”

The US said it had evacuated its entire embassy staff to the airport, but they were being kept separate from those without permission to travel.

Hundreds of people run alongside a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane, some climbing on the plane, as it moves down a runway of the international airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug.16. 2021. Thousands of Afghans have rushed onto the tarmac at the airport, some so desperate to escape the Taliban capture of their country that they held onto the American military jet as it took off and plunged to death. (Verified UGC via AP)

Other videos posted on social media also showed desperate scenes overnight of people fighting to cram into the back of a cargo plane.

Outside of the airport, an uneasy calm held over Kabul as armed Taliban insurgents patrolled the streets and set up checkpoints.

In a message posted to social media, Taliban co-founder Abdul Ghani Baradar called on his fighters to remain disciplined after taking control of the city.

“Now it’s time to test and prove, now we have to show that we can serve our nation and ensure security and comfort of life,” he said.

The scenes at the airport were reminiscent of the chaos that enveloped Washington’s earlier bungled escape from Vietnam in 1975, even as Washington swatted away the comparison.

“This is not Saigon,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a broadcaster on Sunday.  

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Media person and communication expert for over 25 years. Worked with Dow Jones News, World Bank, CNBC Pakistan, Aaj TV, ARY TV, Abbtakk TV, Business Recorder, Pakistan Observer, Online News Network, TTI Magazine and other local and world Publications.

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