Taliban fire into air at Kabul airport preventing Australians from catching evacuation flights

 By foreign affairs reporter Stephen Dziedzic 3 days agoLike|7Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck ‘are in it for long run’Putin’s pre-election social payments may cost budget $6.75 billion – lawmakerU.S. soldiers stand guard along the perimeter at the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021.© (AP Photo/Shekib Rahmani) U.S. soldiers stand guard along the perimeter at the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021.

Australians desperately trying to get into Kabul’s airport for a planned military evacuation flight say they were forced to flee after Taliban guards threw smoke bombs, fired into the air and attacked people outside the terminal gates.

On Thursday the federal government issued an alert telling Australians and Afghans holding an Australian visa to get to Kabul’s international airport for a second military flight out of the country.

The government positioned two C-17 military transport planes in the Middle East and was expected to send one of them into Kabul late on Thursday – although Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that would depend on the Australian Defence Force (ADF) being granted a landing spot at the airport.

As of late Thursday (AEST) it was still not clear when the plane would arrive in Kabul.

The ABC has spoken to several Australians and visa holders who flocked to the airport in hope of getting on the flight, only to be confronted by huge, unruly crowds and aggressive Taliban guards at checkpoints.

The problem is not new; thousands of Afghans trying to flee the country since the Taliban seized power have gathered outside the airport and have struggled to get past security checkpoints and roadblocks.

But the security situation outside the airport seems to be worsening.

One Australian sent a message saying that almost no-one was able to get past security points because the crush of people made movement impossible.

And he said the Taliban guards were resorting to increasingly violent tactics to keep the crowd at bay.

“The situation is unimaginable. They were throwing smoke bombs … too much shooting, people getting beaten up,” he said.

“You’d go forward in a line and all of a sudden they’d throw another smoke bomb at you.”

The man said he had given up getting on an evacuation flight and returned home because he was so infuriated and distressed by the violence.

Videos sent to the ABC also show large crowds of people pressing forward outside the airport walls. Gunfire can be heard ringing out at regular intervals.

‘They are shooting’

Another Australian, Muftahudin Babackerkhil, who was also trying to get his family into the airport in order to get them on a flight home said the scene outside the airport was a disaster.

“I am close to the gate and it’s a huge crowd, no-one will let you get in. The Taliban is here, there is gunfire,” Mr Babackerkhil said.

He also lashed out at the Australian government and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, saying it was “crazy” for them to direct people to the airport without offering help.

“They send me an email and say go to the airport. There is no-one there,” he said.

Mr Babackerkhil said Australian officials had to find a way to bring them inside the terminal or they would have no hope of catching a flight out.

“They have to announce the names and bring us in. There is no proper way to let the people in. They are shooting, kids are crying. Two people have been injured that I saw,” he said.

“The government need to listen and understand what is going on here. It is a disaster here. I am ready for the Taliban to shoot me, because it’s a horrible situation.”

A third Australian said he’d also left the airport because of the violence and lashed out at the federal government for not providing protection.

“Guards have shot at people at the gate, and some type of gas released,” he wrote.

“Suffering hearing loss and difficulty breathing … [have] now left after waiting for over five hours. This is how our ‘government’ is treating Australians!”

Several countries – including the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia – have repeatedly pressed the Taliban to ease security checkpoints near the airport and give safe passage to those who wish to leave.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne held talks with UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Thursday evening and discussed joint evacuation efforts.

Earlier on Thursday the government revealed that 76 Australians and Australian visa holders had been carried out of the country on a UK military plane overnight.

Senator Payne also said Australian officials had met with counterparts from several countries, including the US, to hammer out a plan to improve access to the terminal.

She said Australia had no military or diplomatic presence outside the airport perimeter set up by the US military.

“Australia is not outside the airport at all. Australia is inside Hamid Karzai International Airport, and any issues around security outside the airport we are working with partners on those, and particularly led by the US,” she said.

“That is why there has been quite a significant meeting overnight with, led by the United States, with officials from partner countries, who are sharing that challenge so that we can work hard together on the ground … to address that.”

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