Military planes making evacuation runs into Kabul are dropping flares and carrying out nosedive combat landings amid fears that Islamic terrorists may try to shoot one down as Afghans trying to flee the Taliban have described at least 20 civilians being killed in the chaos.
US military planes are doing rapid diving combat landings to beat the threat of a missile attack, with video showing a French transport plane yesterday deploying flares designed to confuse heat-seeking technology which may have been stolen by Islamic State in Afghanistan.
Taliban forces controlling all access points to Hamid Karzai International Airport are not thought to be attempting to shoot down military aircraft during the Western evacuation effort, as such an action could trigger another American-led intervention in Afghanistan.
It is feared Islamic State in Afghanistan – also known as ISIS-K – could use stolen heat-seeking missiles to bring down a rescue plane carrying hundreds of refugees including women and children.
ISIS militants have been fighting the Taliban for the last six years as they attempt to annex their own piece of Afghanistan following the collapse of their caliphate in Syria and Iraq following Western airstrikes and raids targeting the terror group.
Afghans at Kabul airport have described seeing more than 15 people including a two-year-old girl shot and beaten to death by the Taliban or trampled to death in the melee as thousands of locals desperately try to escape the new regime. One family described night-time crowd surges outside the airport gates and people killed in the stampede as they pleaded: ‘We are trapped in a hell.’
A NATO official who spoke on condition of anonymity told Reuters at least 20 people have been killed in the past seven days in and around Kabul airport during the evacuation effort. The British Ministry of Defence said seven Afghans had died while trying to flee the Taliban.
British Armed Forces Minister James Heappey has said that more than 1,700 people have been airlifted out in the past 24 hours with the help of the Taliban, adding that the militants were marshalling people into separate UK and US evacuation queues.
However, Taliban militants surrounding Kabul airport fired in the air and used batons to beat back the crowds and make people line up in orderly queues on Sunday, witnesses said. The crude crowd-control methods, together with reports that Taliban gangs have marauded conquered territory to enslave female Afghans, fly in the face of the group’s stated claims to be going ‘moderate’.
Boris Johnson said he will convene G7 leaders on Tuesday for ‘urgent talks’ on the crisis, writing on Twitter: ‘It is vital that the international community works together to ensure safe evacuations, prevent a humanitarian crisis and support the Afghan people to secure the gains of the last 20 years.’