Seven people killed in crowd crush near Kabul Airport

By: News Desk      Published: 12:25 PM, 22 Aug, 2021
Seven people killed in crowd crush near Kabul Airport
A foreign soldier offers water to an Afghan woman caught up in the crowd near Kabul Airport.

Seven people in the crowds near Kabul Airport died amid the chaos of those fleeing the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the UK Ministry of Defence has said.

The MoD said in a statement on Sunday that "conditions on the ground remain extremely challenging but we are doing everything we can to manage the situation as safely and securely as possible". It added: "Our sincere thoughts are with the families of the seven Afghan civilians who have sadly died in crowds in Kabul."

A panicked crush of people trying to enter Kabul's international airport killed seven Afghan civilians in the crowds, the British military said Sunday, showing the danger still posed to those trying to flee the Taliban's takeover of the country.

The deaths come as a new, perceived threat from the Islamic State group affiliate in Afghanistan has seen US military planes do rapid, diving combat landings at the airport surrounded by Taliban fighters. Other aircraft have shot off flares on take-off, an effort to confuse possible heat-seeking missiles targeting the planes.

The changes come as the US Embassy issued a new security warning Saturday telling citizens not to travel to the Kabul airport without individual instruction from a US government representative. Officials declined to provide more specifics about the IS threat but described it as significant. They said there have been no confirmed attacks as yet by the militants, who have battled the Taliban in the past.

On Sunday, the British military acknowledged the seven deaths of civilians in the crowds in Kabul. There have been stampedes and crushing injuries in the crowds, especially as Taliban fighters fire into the air to drive away those desperate to get on any flight out of the country.

“Conditions on the ground remain extremely challenging but we are doing everything we can to manage the situation as safely and securely as possible," the UK Defence Ministry said in a statement.

Taliban blame US

The United States was to blame for the chaos at Kabul's airport as thousands of Afghans clamoured to be evacuated, a senior Taliban official said Sunday.

"America, with all its power and facilities... has failed to bring order to the airport. There is peace and calm all over the country, but there is chaos only at Kabul airport," said Amir Khan Mutaqi, a Taliban official.

Thousands rushed the airport last Monday in chaos that saw the US try to clear off the runway with low-flying attack helicopters. Several Afghans plunged to their deaths while hanging off the side of a US military cargo plane. It's been difficult to know the full scale of the deaths and injuries from the chaos.

The Biden administration is considering calling on US commercial airlines to provide planes and crews to assist in transporting Afghan refugees once they are evacuated from their country by military aircraft. Under the voluntary Civil Reserve Air Fleet program, civilian airlines add to military aircraft capability during a crisis related to national defence. That program was born in the wake of the Berlin airlift.

On Saturday, a Sky News correspondent watched as UK paratroopers began pulling people from the mayhem before medics checked vital signs of those left on the floor after a crush and then covered bodies in white sheets.

British soldiers have been inside the airport boundary attempting to help evacuate British people and Afghans with the right to come to the UK.

Thousands of people gathered outside the gates of the Hamid Karzai International Airport trying to escape from the country, fearful about what would happen following the Taliban's lightning takeover of the country.

On Wednesday, 17 people were injured in a stampede at a gate to the airport and, on Monday, at least five people were killed during chaos on the ground and at least one fell from a US military plane after hundreds of desperate people flooded on to runways at the airport.

Witnesses have said the Taliban imposed some order around the airport on Sunday, ordering those outside the gates form orderly queues and preventing crowds from gathering elsewhere nearby.