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Kabul evacuations continue after deaths in airport chaos

Filed on August 22, 2021
Afghan evacuees queue before boarding Italy's military aircraft during evacuation at Kabul's airport. — Reuters

Around 17,000 people have been evacuated by the US since August 14.

The deaths of seven Afghans were reported on Sunday during chaotic scenes at Kabul’s airport, as thousands of people try to get on evacuation flights out of Afghanistan a week after the Taliban seized control.

Britain’s defence ministry said seven Afghans died in crowds in Kabul, without giving the circumstances.

Sky News on Saturday aired footage of at least three bodies covered in white tarpaulins outside the airport.

Sky reporter Stuart Ramsay, who was at the airport, said that people at the front of one part of the crowd were being “crushed”, while others were “dehydrated and terrified”.

Around 17,000 people have been evacuated by the US since August 14.

Biden told ABC news the US planned to evacuate all 10,000 to 15,000 Americans, and hoped to do the same for Afghan allies and their families, believed to number between 50,000 and 65,000.

Pressure is building on Biden to extend the August 31 deadline he set to complete the mission. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that “it’s mathematically impossible” to evacuate so many by the end of the month.

British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace expressed support for extending Washington’s deadline, warning that “no nation will be able to get everyone out” before August 31.

“Perhaps the Americans will be permitted to stay longer, and they will have our complete support if they do,” Wallace wrote in the UK newspaper Mail on Sunday.

An Afghan woman gave birth to a baby girl on a US military plane evacuating to a base in Germany, the Air Mobility Command said.

During the flight on Saturday “the mother went into labour and began having complications,” it said in a tweet.

“The aircraft commander decided to descend in altitude to increase air pressure in the aircraft, which helped stabilise and save the mother’s life,” it added. Mother and daughter were in good condition.

The Taliban on Sunday blamed the US for the chaos at the Kabul airport.

“America, with all its power and facilities... has failed to bring order to the airport,” said Taliban official Amir Khan Mutaqi.

“There is peace and calm all over the country, but there is chaos only at Kabul airport.”

The airport is being patrolled by 6,000 heavily armed US troops, but the Taliban control the surrounding streets, preventing many Afghans getting to the airport.

The US has told its citizens to avoid travelling to the airport because of “potential security threats” near its gates.

More than 7,000 people have been evacuated to Qatar, while 8,500 have gone the United Arab Emirates.

The US ambassador to Kuwait said on Sunday the country had allowed entry to 850 US citizens and diplomatic staff.

Madrid and Washington announced on Sunday that two Spanish military bases — Moron and Rota — will host Afghan allies of the US before they transit to other destinations.

Biden has praised Spain’s leadership in mobilising international support for Afghan women and girls.

A military plane carrying 211 landed in Rome on Sunday, the Italian defence ministry said. Another plane was enroute to Kuwait, while three others were due to take off on Sunday to evacuate Afghans.

Britain has evacuated nearly 4,000 people since August 13 using more than 1,000 troops, according to the defence ministry.

Denmark says it has evacuated 450 people, including around 30 Afghan interpreters.

A plane landed in Spain overnight with 46 staff from Spain and 64 from the US. Two Spanish military planes also left Kabul Sunday for Dubai with 177 people — 110 from Spain and 67 from the US.

Austria said at least eight of its nationals had been evacuated, with dozens more as well as Afghans with Austrian residence permits still waiting. Bulgaria said 20 of its nationals had been evacuated, Romania, more than 45.

All three countries have been relying on transport provided by other countries, although Romania also used its own Hercules C-130.

Hungary said it had evacuated at least 26 of its nationals.

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