Afghan soldier killed in Kabul airport gunfight as US dashes to meet evacuation deadline

·5 min read
Firefight leaves at least one dead at Kabul Airport, according to reports
Firefight leaves at least one dead at Kabul Airport, according to reports

An Afghan soldier was shot dead and three others were wounded at Kabul airport on Monday, as Washington ramped up efforts to bring home citizens and Afghan workers.

The United States said it had evacuated more than 16,000 people over the past 24 hours, the highest daily figure so far, as it raced to meet the Taliban's August 31 deadline to leave the country.

German military officials said the gunfight occurred around 7am in the same area of the airport where seven Afghans were crushed to death over the weekend due to overcrowding.

Last night, Pentagon officials said they could not rule out the possibility that the Taliban were responsible.

Kabul's international airport has been plunged into chaos since the city fell to Taliban control on August 15, with thousands attempting to flee on evacuation flights organised by Britain, the US and their allies.

Several countries evacuating Afghans and other civilians have resorted to unusual methods of helping people pass through the airport’s guarded entrances.

Afghans with links to Spain have reportedly been advised to yell “Espagne [Spain]” at Taliban and US forces at the gate, or to bring along a Spanish flag.

A reporter for the Toronto Sun tweeted that Canadian forces had advised Afghans seeking evacuation flights to “wear red,” in reference to the Canadian flag.

And according to relatives of one Afghan interpreter, who worked with Australian forces, he was told his request for evacuation could only be processed by post.

The interpreter's family told ABC News that he has now abandoned attempts to flee to Australia as mailing his papers was untenable, and is instead seeking help from the United States.

A source familiar with Qatar’s evacuation process confirmed to the Telegraph that their ambassador in Kabul has been driving American evacuees in his own car to the airport because the Taliban "respect" him.

Qatar is working as a mediator between the Taliban and Western officials, and in 2013 allowed the insurgents to open a political office in Doha.

The Taliban has blamed the unrest at the airport, which has led to some 20 deaths, on US troops who are rushing to rescue citizens before an August 31 deadline, which the Taliban has refused to extend.

It came as a leaked diplomatic cable seen by NBC News said Afghan workers at the UN embassy had claimed “it would be better to die under the Taliban’s bullet” than make another risky attempt to enter the airport.

The cable went on to say that staff felt betrayed by the US withdrawal, and were distrustful of the evacuation efforts due to their "brutal experience" travelling unescorted to the airport.

On Monday the United States confirmed that the total number of US citizens and Afghans rescued from Kabul since the Taliban takeover had risen to 37,000.

The Pentagon later denied reports that Afghans who had applied for special immigrant visas were being told by US officials to stay away from the airport.

The denial appeared to contradict an earlier statement by John Johnson, a spokesman for the US Embassy in Kabul, who told CNN that the US was “currently prioritising American citizens and legal permanent residents.”

It has also emerged that a convicted Afghan gang member managed to talk his way onto one of Denmark's evacuation flights and then tried to use his brother's name to get past police registering evacuees at Copenhagen Airport.

The incident raises questions as to whether the chaotic scenes at the airport are allowing Afghans who have not worked with Western journalists and armies to slip out of the country.
.

Afghans wait outside the foreign military-controlled part of the airport in Kabul on Sunday night, hoping to flee the country - WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP
Afghans wait outside the foreign military-controlled part of the airport in Kabul on Sunday night, hoping to flee the country - WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP

Switzerland and Hungary confirmed that they had evacuated hundreds of people from Kabul airport, while French special forces were deployed to rescue 260 Afghan EU workers.

David Martinon, France’s ambassador to Afghanistan, said the troops had cooperated with US forces and managed to escort them inside the airport, adding: "Bravo to the EU."

Switzerland said a 300-seat Swiss Airlines jet took off from Zurich on Monday to the Uzbek capital of Tashkent to pick up Afghans who had been evacuated from Kabul.

In Hungary, officials said they had evacuated 173 people, many of them at the request of the United States and Austria, who were taken to Budapest via Uzbekistan, while Germany said it has retrieved nealy 3,000 people.

a US Air Force aircrew, assigned to the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, prepare to load qualified evacuees aboard a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in support of Afghanistan evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport - TAYLOR CRUL
a US Air Force aircrew, assigned to the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, prepare to load qualified evacuees aboard a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in support of Afghanistan evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport - TAYLOR CRUL

The United Arab Emirates is also flying civilians to the United States while Bahrain has deployed a commercial airliner which brought refugees to Dulles airport in Virginia.

Jordan’s foreign ministry has said it will allow 2,500 Afghans to pass through the kingdom en route to the United States, but did not say when the arrangement would take place.

The unrest at Kabul airport is hampering the efforts of aid agencies who said on Monday they were unable to transfer some 500 tonnes of medical supplies, including surgical equipment and malnutrition kits.

A U.S. Marine assigned to 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) comforts an infant while they wait for the mother during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul on Sunday
A U.S. Marine assigned to 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) comforts an infant while they wait for the mother during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul on Sunday

One Afghan mother trapped outside the airport told the Telegraph she was running out of water for her terrified children.

“If we move from our location we will be further away from the front. If you know when they will open the gate please tell us, my children are so tired and scared," she said.

Additional reporting: Richard Orange in Malmo

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting