Desperation mounts at Kabul airport as escape window narrows

Kabul, Afghanistan – There was a growing sense of desperation at Kabul airport on Friday as people crowded to the civilian and military parts of the facility in an effort to escape the country following the takeover of the Taliban, before Western forces depart.

Evacuees board a plane departing from Kabul Airport in Afghanistan.
Evacuees board a plane departing from Kabul Airport in Afghanistan.  © IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

Meanwhile, a report compiled for the United Nations warned that the Taliban is conducting targeted searches for supposed collaborators with the former regime – despite assurances by the radical Islamist group that it would not carry out reprisals.

Amid the chaos and confusion, a German citizen suffered a gunshot wound on his way to the airport, a government spokesperson said. The civilian had been given medical care and would soon be flown out.

Hundreds of people were crowding around the civilian entrance to the airport, located at a large roundabout, trying to enter the compound, witnesses told dpa.

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Taliban fighters fired guns into the air and cracked whips to drive people away.

Kabul's airport has a civilian and a military section. As the Taliban controls and blocks access to the civilian airport, people were also trying to enter the military section.

CNN showed images of US soldiers firing guns into the air to repel the crowds.

Pressure is growing partly due to the United States' deadline to complete the withdrawal of its troops by August 31. Other countries rushing to evacuate their citizens in the aftermath of the Taliban takeover depend on the support and security provided by US forces.

Thousands attempt to flee via Kabul Airport

People wait to board a plane in Kabul as part of Operation Allies Refuge.
People wait to board a plane in Kabul as part of Operation Allies Refuge.  © IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

Thousands have attempted to flee Afghanistan since the Taliban seized power on Sunday, fearful of retribution acts by the militant Islamist group.

With commercial air travel suspended, the only hope for many is to make it onto foreign evacuation flights.

Earlier, Afghanistan's top sport authority confirmed the death of a young soccer player who fell from a US aircraft in an attempt to escape.

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Zaki Anwari, a 19-year old player in Afghanistan's national youth football team, "has lost his life in a tragic accident," the General Directorate of Physical Education and Sports posted on Facebook late on Thursday.

"Deceased Anwari was among hundreds of youth trying to leave the country, he fell off a US military plane and lost his life," the sport authority added.

UN report says Taliban going after former regime collaborators

Taliban fighters are reportedly going door to door looking for collaborators with the former Afghan regime, with potentially deadly results.
Taliban fighters are reportedly going door to door looking for collaborators with the former Afghan regime, with potentially deadly results.  © IMAGO / Xinhua

A report compiled for the UN has warned that the Taliban is openly threatening family members with reprisals as it searches for supposed collaborators with the former regime.

"Particularly at risk are individuals in central positions in military, police and investigative units," says the confidential four-page report by the RHIPTO Norwegian Center for Global Analyses, seen by dpa.

The head of the think tank, Christian Nellemann, dismissed the Taliban's assurances that they will not retaliate against opponents. "They are simply trying to keep them in place in order to apprehend them," he told dpa.

According to the report, the Taliban had mapped the whereabouts of individuals they wanted to arrest before seizing major cities. They have been arresting or threatening family members if people do not surrender, it adds, citing an apparent Taliban letter to a former high-ranking Afghan security official as evidence.

The report says the Western focus on repatriation efforts is allowing the Taliban to target Afghans and warns of a lockdown of the outer perimeter of Kabul in the coming days.

It cites the possibility of public executions as a worst-case scenario, as well as a possible targeting of Westerners critical of the Taliban.

Facebook, meanwhile, took steps to protect accounts in Afghanistan, by temporarily removing the ability to view and search users' friend lists, as well as making it easier for users to block their account, Facebook's head of security policy Nathaniel Gleicher announced on Twitter.

Cover photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

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