Gunfire and barbed wire keep Afghans from reaching Kabul airport

·3-min read

As evacuations from Afghanistan continue, Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport has continued to be a scene of chaos with thousands still hoping to board a flight out of the country. Videos show crowds of people outside the airport as gunshots ring out in the background. Our Observer, an Afghan student, witnessed the desperate scene at one of the airport gates as men, women and children tried to pass through military perimeters.

Four days after the Taliban captured the Afghan capital Kabul, military evacuations out of Afghanistan have ramped up. The Taliban has said they are facilitating the safe exit of foreigners and Afghans, but access to the Hamid Karzai International Airport has proved to be difficult, posing major security problems for those who are trying to flee.

At least 12 people have died at the airport since Sunday, NATO officials say. A Taliban official told Reuters that the deaths were caused by gunshots or stampedes, and added that people should go home if they don’t have the right to travel.

Some Taliban officials have stopped people in Kabul from reaching the airport, witnesses say, even if they have adequate travel documents. According to our Observer, who was at the airport in the morning, Afghan security forces and American soldiers have been firing warning shots.

Videos shared online show chaos outside the airport gates.

'Brothers, please get away from the barbed wire. We cannot let you in'

Mahmoud (not his real name), an Afghan university student, went to the airport Thursday in the hopes of boarding a flight. He is afraid that the Taliban could target him because he has participated in exchanges with US universities.

I had a ticket for a commercial flight that was supposed to leave Kabul today. I called the airline yesterday and they said flights were resuming Thursday. I went to the airport around 8am. There were Taliban checkpoints along the way. They asked where I was going and I told them the airport. They didn’t ask to see any documents. There were no checkpoints on the airport road.

When I got to the main entrance to the airport, the gate was closed and there were Taliban fighters. They told me to leave and go to the entrance to the military side of the airport, 2 to 3km from the main gate.

When I got to that entrance, I saw US troops and Afghan special forces. The Americans were letting people in three or four at a time, raising the barbed wire to let them through. If it was a family, they’d let in all the members of the family.

There were lots of Afghans there, hoping to get in. It was very chaotic. Most of them didn’t have any proper documents, no passports or tickets. Some people had electricity bills. And some people had fake visas. People were saying that yesterday the US troops were letting people in with fake visas.

The US troops were repeatedly telling people to stay back. There were announcements in English and Pashto and Dari but no one paid attention. Men, women and children were getting stuck on the barbed wire. I saw people bleeding, their clothes torn.

I saw the US troops fire warning shots, shooting their guns in the air just above our heads. The Afghan troops fired warning shots too. The US troops used ‘bombs’ with a bright flash and a loud noise, then smoke that makes you choke. I couldn’t see.

I don’t know what I’m going to do now. Even if commercial flights resume tomorrow, I won’t go the airport again if the situation stays the same. It’s too dangerous.

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