Satellite images show chaos as Afghans swarm Kabul airport to escape Taliban takeover

Satellite images show chaos as Afghans swarm Kabul airport to escape Taliban takeover
Estimates suggest at least seven people have died in the chaos so far

Satellite images captured scenes of chaos at Kabul’s main airport on Monday, as thousands of desperate Afghans attempted to flee the Taliban takeover of the country.

The photos show dense crowds of people on the tarmac itself, surrounding parked civilian airplanes, whose flights have been suspended until further notice.

Video circulating on social media of the same scene captured throngs of people running alongside US military transport planes, with some even jumping onto the side of the craft as they took off. Reports suggest some people fell to their death as they attempted to cling to the outside of departing evacuation flights.

A traffic jam in Kabul on 16 August, 2021, as Afghans try to flee the impending Taliban takeover.

The Daily Mail website reported on Monday that eight people total have died at the airport, two of whom were shot by US troops, three run over by jets, and three who fell off of ascending planes. Other estimates have suggested seven died.

Both the Taliban and US forces reportedly fired warning shots to disperse the crowd, while American soldiers used Apache helicopters to attempt to corral the crowds of people.

US officials have reportedly met with their Taliban counterparts in Doha, Qatar, and reached a deal for American evacuations to continue unimpeded for US diplomatic personnel and a limited number of Afghans who assisted US forces.

“Commercial flights in and out of Kabul International Airport have been halted at this time,” a Pentagon spokesperson told The Independent. “The situation remains fluid and we are still assessing.”

A force of 7,000 American troops are being deployed to reestablish a security perimeter around the airport before government evacuations can continue.

Meanwhile, civilian Afghans with no ties to a foreign government are stranded, with satellite images showing some leaving their cars in the middle of the street as they attempt to flee to the airport. Even those with an official tie to a military force with a presence inside the country have reported trouble leaving Kabul.

A former security guard, who said he had a British visa, told The Independent that he and his family were forced back while those without the relevant paperwork simply pushed through.

The 36-year-old man, originally from Kunduz, who had worked with the British in both Helmand and Kabul, said: “We went to the airport on Saturday and waited for six hours, we saw people who did not have visas or papers rush past us, but we couldn’t do anything as we had our young children with us. One of my daughters started feeling very ill. She is four years old, and my wife insisted that we go back home.”

“Maybe they would not have checked me, maybe they wouldn’t have known about me, but I could not take the chance,” he added. “We went back home. I don’t think it’ll be possible for the British to find me here, I don’t know what to do now.”

The Taliban has promised a peaceful transfer of power, but diplomats have warned the group is already committing abuses.

Afghanistan’s UN ambassador Ghulam Isaczai said on Monday that, “We have seen gruesome images of Taliban´s mass executions of military personnel and target killing of civilians in Kandahar and other big cities,” adding, “Kabul residents are reporting the Taliban have already started house-to-house searches in some neighbourhoods, registering names and looking for people in their target list. There are already reports of target killings and looting in the city. Kabul residents are living in absolute fear right now.”

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