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At least six people —witnesses told EFE news agency— have been killed in a possible gun battle between Taliban and American forces amid the chaos unleashed at Kabul airport, where thousands of people are crowded trying to leave Afghanistan by plane after insurgents seized the Afghan capital and took control of almost the entire country.
“I saw three civilians and a Taliban fighter killed in the gun battle between the Taliban and American forces,” Mirwais Yusufi, a witness to what happened at Kabul airport, where he had also been on his way to try to leave the country, told Efe.
According to the eyewitness account, the shooting was triggered after a Taliban ordered several Afghan civilians to leave the airport, but when they refused, the insurgent fired at them, which triggered the response of the American forces, who opened fire on him, who died on the spot.
“After the shooting everyone started running and then we saw that three civilians were killed, I don’t know if by the American soldiers’ gunfire or by the Taliban,” he said.
Others died when they fell out of a plane
Two other people were reportedly killed when they fell from an American plane they had managed to board before it took off from Kabul airport.
Two videos on social media that went viral show dozens of people running along the runways of Kabul airport as a plane moves, with some people clinging to it; in the other, two bodies are seen in the distance falling from the top of a plane that had taken off.
One of those who fell from the plane was Fida Muhammad, a 22-year-old dentist residing in Kabul province.
“He left home today to go to his work, but we found out hours later that he died when he fell from the plane,” Ahmad, one of his close relatives, told EFE.
Chaos at Kabul airport
After the conquest of Kabul by the Taliban on Sunday, thousands of citizens rushed to the city’s airport in the hope of being evacuated as soon as possible, most of them without visas, tickets for commercial flights or even passports.
Although civilians gathered in the civilian flight portion of the airport, the thousands of people massed on the runways forced U.S. forces to send in soldiers to try to get the Afghans off the runways of the military zone.
“Thousands of people, men, women and children spent the night inside Kabul airport trying to leave the country, but the situation became chaotic in the morning” after the shooting, Yusufi said.
At this time, all flights from Kabul International Airport are temporarily suspended, Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement.
“Stay away from the airport until flights resume,” it added.
Among those rushing into Kabul airport to try to flee Afghanistan are Afghans who worked for American and NATO forces over the past 20 years, including those whose visa applications were rejected, although most are ordinary people who went there driven by the idea that the United States and Canada, which are evacuating their personnel from the country, were going to do the same to Afghans.
“I heard last night that three planes evacuated people who had no passport or visa, so several of my friends and I came in the morning to the airport and stayed there for hours” before unsuccessfully returning home, Tamim Ansar, a witness who also witnessed the firefight between Taliban and American forces, told EFE.
Ansar said most of the civilians and families at the airport desperate to flee the country have neither passports nor visas, yet they are still waiting to be evacuated.