KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – A panicked crowd of people trying to enter Kabul International Airport killed seven Afghan civilians in the crowd, the British military said on Sunday, showing the danger that still hangs over those who attempt to flee the takeover of the country by the Taliban.
The deaths come as a new perceived threat from the Islamic State group’s affiliate in Afghanistan has seen U.S. military planes make quick combat landings and dive at the airport surrounded by Taliban fighters. Other planes fired flares on takeoff, an effort to confuse possible heat-seeking missiles targeting the planes.
The changes come as the U.S. Embassy issued a new security warning on Saturday telling citizens not to travel to Kabul airport without individual instruction from a U.S. government official. Officials declined to provide further details on the ISIS threat, but described it as significant. They said there had not yet been any confirmed attacks by militants, who fought the Taliban in the past.
On Sunday, the British army acknowledged the seven dead civilians in the crowd in Kabul. There has been crushing and crushing injuries in the crowds, especially as Taliban fighters fire in the air to chase those desperate to catch a flight out of the country.
“The conditions on the ground remain extremely difficult, but we are doing everything possible to handle the situation as safely and securely as possible”, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.
British and Western troops in full riot gear attempted to control the crowds on Saturday. They took away pale and sweaty people. With temperatures reaching 34 degrees Celsius (93 degrees Fahrenheit), soldiers sprayed water from a hose on the gathered people or gave them bottled water to pour over their heads.
“Listen sir, you have to calm down” one soldier said to a man lying in the ground, while another gave him an orange liquid. “Calm.”
It was not immediately clear whether those killed were physically crushed, suffocated or suffered a fatal heart attack in the crowd. The soldiers covered several corpses with white clothes to hide them. Other troops stood atop concrete barriers or shipping containers, trying to calm the crowds. Shots were sometimes heard.
Speaking to an Iranian state television station on Saturday night on a video call, Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem blamed the deaths at the airport on Americans in what quickly became a combative interview .
“The Americans announced that we would take you to America with us and people gathered at the airport in Kabul,” said Naeem. “If it was announced now in any country in the world, wouldn’t people go?”
The Iranian state television host, who has long criticized America since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, quickly said: âThis will not happen in Iran.
Naeem replied: “Make sure it happens anywhere.”
Thousands of people rushed to the airport last Monday in chaos that saw the United States attempt to clear the runway with low-flying attack helicopters. Several Afghans died as they were suspended from the side of a US military cargo plane. It was difficult to know the scale of the deaths and injuries caused by the chaos.
The Biden administration is considering asking U.S. commercial airlines to provide planes and crews to help transport Afghan refugees once they are evacuated from their country by military planes. As part of the voluntary Civilian Reserve Air Fleet program, civilian airlines add military aircraft capacity during a national defense crisis. This program was born in the wake of the Berlin Airlift.
The US Transportation Command said on Saturday it issued a warning order to US carriers on Friday night about the possible activation of the program. If called, commercial airlines would transport evacuees from crossing stations outside Afghanistan to another country or from Dulles International Airport in Virginia to US military bases.
Meanwhile, the Taliban’s top political leader has arrived in Kabul for talks on forming a new government. The presence of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who returned to Kandahar earlier this week from Qatar, was confirmed by a Taliban official who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. Baradar negotiated the 2020 militant peace deal with the United States, and he is now expected to play a key role in negotiations between the Taliban and Afghan government officials that the militant group toppled.
Afghan officials familiar with talks in the capital said the Taliban had said they would not make any announcements about their government until the August 31 deadline for the withdrawal of US troops.
Abdullah Abdullah, a senior official in the ousted government, tweeted that he and ex-President Hamid Karzai met with the Taliban’s acting governor for Kabul on Saturday, who “assured us that he would do everything possible for the safety of the population” from the city.