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Chaos and killings at Kabul airport: US forces open fire as Afghans mob tarmac

Afghan citizens waiting at the airport as US soldiers stand guard in Kabul, August 16, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Kabul International Airport has been overwhelmed with scenes of disorder and confusion as panicked Afghan residents and foreign nationals hoping to find seats on the last flights leaving the country have dashed to the airport, with reports of several deaths after US troops were said to have fired in the air to disperse a desperate crowd of thousands.

Witnesses said at least five people were killed at the passenger terminal, where thousands of Afghans gathered in the hopes of catching a flight out of Afghanistan, following a Taliban takeover of the capital.

Witnesses reported seeing bloodied bodies lying on the ground just outside the terminal building on Monday. 

American troops were said to have fired shots in the air to disperse thousands of Afghans crowding onto the tarmac.

An eyewitness told Reuters on Monday that they were very scared at the airport as US troops were firing lots of shots.

The Taliban took over the capital on Sunday and declared that the war in Afghanistan was over. The militants entered the presidential palace after president Ashraf Ghani fled the country, saying he wanted to “prevent a flood of bloodshed.”

Authorities at Kabul airport said in a message to reporters Monday that all commercial flights from Kabul had been canceled, while civil aviation authorities said Kabul airspace had been handed over to the Taliban, advising transit flights to reroute.

"There will be no commercial flights from Hamid Karzai Airport to prevent looting and plundering. Please do not rush to the airport," the message said.

A State Department spokesperson said that all American embassy staff, including Ambassador Ross Wilson, had been transferred to Kabul airport, and were awaiting evacuation.

US military forces took over the security of Kabul airport to facilitate the evacuation of US civilian personnel from the conflict-ravaged country.

A US military official confirmed that American forces had fired into the air to scatter Afghans surging onto the tarmac to board a military flight.

“This is our airport but we are seeing diplomats being evacuated while we wait in complete uncertainty," Rakhshanda Jilali, a human rights activist who was trying to get to Pakistan, told Reuters in a message from the airport.

Meanwhile, the US Department of Defense said it had authorized another 1,000 troops to help evacuate US citizens and Afghans who worked for them, expanding the US military presence on the ground to almost 6,000 troops.

More than 60 countries, including the United States, Britain, France and Japan, issued a joint statement saying all Afghans and international citizens who wanted to leave must be allowed to do so.

Western governments scrambled Monday to evacuate their citizens in a frenzy.

Some countries, including France, Germany and New Zealand said they were working to evacuate their citizens as well as some Afghan employees.

Russia and Turkey said there was no need to evacuate their embassies for now.

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