Australia evacuates more than 300 overnight from Afghanistan – PM

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By Lidia Kelly

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia ran four flights into Kabul, Afghanistan, on Saturday night, evacuating more than 300 people, including Australians, Afghan visa holders, New Zealanders, U.S. and British citizens, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Sunday.

The news came after the United States and Germany told their citizens in Afghanistan to avoid travelling to Kabul airport, citing security risks as thousands tried to flee almost a week after Taliban Islamists took control.

“We will continue to run those flights, working together with our partners and our allies,” Morrison told the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) Insiders program on Sunday.

“We are uplifting not just Australians and Afghan visa holders for Australia, but those from the United Kingdom, the United States and New Zealand.”

The Australian government has now evacuated more than 550 people from Kabul since Aug. 18, including Australians and Afghan visa holders.

Last week, about 8,000 people were flown from Afghanistan on flights organised by the United States, United Kingdom and European Union countries.

The first flight to bring evacuees from Kabul to Australia landed in Perth on Friday night, bringing Australians, Afghan visa holders and family members, including women and children, Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said.

She said the efforts have been hampered by Taliban violence.

“There are people in their thousands, as you’ve seen, crowding around the entrances to the airport,” she said according to a transcript of a news conference on Saturday published on the ministry’s website.

“And there have been, unfortunately, injuries as well. And, we have had to address some of those amongst our passenger cohorts too. It is dangerous.”

(Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)

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