Seven people were killed near Kabul’s airport Saturday as thousands gathered in a desperate effort to leave the country as the Taliban take control of the country, the British Ministry of Defense said on Sunday.
The Taliban, after a 10-day offensive, entered the Afghanistan capital just a week ago, on August 15.
Since then, the airport has been a chaotic site as thousands of people have tried to flee the country, fearing a return to the harsh interpretation of Islamic law practiced when the Taliban controlled the country 20 years ago.
“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 British Defense Ministry said in a statement.
Temperatures on Saturday in Kabul reached 34 degrees Celsius (93 degrees Fahrenheit). The Associated Press reported that it wasn't immediately clear whether those killed had been physically crushed, suffocated or suffered a fatal heart attack in the crowds.
A Sky News correspondent who was at the Kabul airport, however, said tens of thousands of Afghans turned up on Saturday with those at the front crushed against the barricades, Reuters reported.
Also Saturday, U.S. citizens in Afghanistan who want to leave the country have been advised not to go to Kabul’s airport unless they have received “individual instructions from a U.S. government representative to do so.”
The security alert advisory from the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan seems to have added to the confusion and panic as thousands of people surround Kabul’s international airport hoping to find transport out of the country that has been taken over by the Taliban.
U.S. President Joe Biden is scheduled to give an update Sunday afternoon about the evacuation of Americans and Afghan refugees from Kabul.
On Sunday, Spain announced that it would receive Afghan refugees who worked for the U.S. government. The Afghans will be housed at two military bases in southern Spain, Moron de la Frontera near Seville and Rota near Cadiz, while they await transportation to other countries.
On Saturday, a plane with 110 Afghan refugee families landed at a European Union hub at a military base on Madrid’s outskirts, Reuters reported. The group included 36 people who worked for the U.S. in Afghanistan. The base is the first stop for Afghans who worked for the European Union before they move on to EU host countries.
A week after retaking power in Afghanistan through stunning military victories, leaders of the Taliban insurgency are still conducting internal talks and meetings with former rivals on forming what they have promised will be an “inclusive Islamic government.”
The framework for the formation of the new government is expected to be announced soon, Taliban officials in Kabul said Saturday.
Senior Taliban leaders held new meetings Saturday with prominent figures in the Afghan capital to exchange views on the future governance system, said Mohamad Naeem, the group’s political spokesman.
He quoted a senior leader, Shahabuddin Dilawar, as telling Afghan interlocutors that the Taliban want a “strong central system that respects the rule of law, is free from corruption and every citizen has the opportunity to serve his country and people.”
The Taliban opened the political engagements after issuing a blanket amnesty for all who served or were part of the former Afghan government.
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the deputy Taliban leader, also has arrived in Kabul from the Islamist group’s southern stronghold of Kandahar to oversee the process of forming the new government.
Baradar, a co-founder of the Taliban, returned to Afghanistan this week from Qatar, where he headed the group’s political office and oversaw peace negotiations with the Trump administration that culminated in the February 2020 deal that paved the way for U.S.-led allied troops to withdraw from nearly 20 years of war in Afghanistan.
Biden delayed the May 1 withdrawal date that he inherited to August 31. But last week, Biden said during a national address from the White House that the U.S. may extend that deadline to evacuate Americans.
Abdullah Abdullah, coalition partner of the self-exiled President Ashraf Ghani, and former President Hamid Karzai have held repeated meetings with Taliban leaders over the past few days.
After a meeting Saturday, Abdullah said via Twitter that he and Karzai welcomed Taliban leaders at his residence.
“We exchanged views on the current security & political developments, & an inclusive political settlement for the future of the country,” Abdullah wrote.
Meanwhile, thousands of Afghans continued to swamp the Kabul airport in hopes of finding place on one of the flights the U.S. military and other countries are operating to evacuate foreign personnel and Afghans who served international forces in different capacities.
The White House said Saturday that in the last 24 hours, six U.S. military C-17s and 32 charter flights had departed the Afghan capital, evacuating about 3,800 passengers.
“Since the end of July, we have relocated approximately 22,000 people. Since August 14th, we have evacuated approximately 17,000 people,” it said.
Some information in this article came from The Associated Press, AFP and Reuters.