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Afghanistan: US takes control of Kabul airport to evacuate staff from country

There have been scenes of panic at Kabul airport as desperate residents try to flee following the seizure of the Afghan capital by the Taliban.

Witnesses say at least three civilians died on Monday in the chaos at the airport, which is being secured by US troops. It is not clear whether they were shot or died in a stampede.

With scheduled flights suspended, many foreigners and Afghans are stranded.

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The US and other countries are rushing to evacuate staff and allies.

On Sunday the Taliban declared victory after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled abroad and his government collapsed.

The militants’ return to rule brings an end to almost 20 years of a US-led coalition’s presence in the country.

Kabul was the last major city in Afghanistan to fall to a Taliban offensive that began months ago but accelerated in recent days as they gained control of territories, shocking many observers.

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The Islamist group was able to seize control after most foreign troops pulled out.

Following the Taliban’s seizure of Kabul, many people headed to the airport.

Evacuations of foreigners and some Afghans with links to foreign governments and organisations have been taking place, but passengers said rumours spread that even those without visas were being allowed to travel.

As huge crowds gathered, US forces reportedly fired into the air to disperse people who were trying to force their way onto planes.

Video obtained by Afghan media outlets also showed people clinging to the side of a plane as it began to taxi on the runway. Another video appeared to show men falling from a plane that had taken off.

A US defence official later told Reuters news agency that the country had temporarily suspended all evacuation flights so people could be cleared from the area.

Rakhshanda Jilali, a human rights activist who is trying to leave, said: “How can [the Americans] hold the airport and dictate terms and conditions to Afghans?”

“This is our airport but we are seeing diplomats being evacuated while we wait in complete uncertainty,” she told Reuters news agency.

Thousands of American citizens, locals embassy staff and their families, as well as other “vulnerable Afghan nationals” are to be airlifted in the coming days, the US government has said.

The US has sent 6,000 troops to assist in the evacuation.



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