Afghanistan: Thousands throng Kabul airport after Taliban seize capital

Thousands of Afghans desperate to leave the country thronged Kabul airport where at least seven people were killed on Monday after Taliban insurgents seized the capital, prompting the US military to suspend evacuations to clear the airfield.

Crowds converged on the airport seeking to escape, including some clinging to a US military transport plane as it taxied on the runway, according to footage posted by a media company.

The United States temporarily halted all evacuation flights from Kabul to clear people who had converged on the airfield.

Taliban officials have declared the 20-year war over and issued statements aimed at calming the panic that has been building in Kabul as the militants, who ruled from 1996 to 2001, routed the US-backed Afghan army as foreign forces withdrew.

President Ashraf Ghani fled the country on Sunday as the bearded Islamist militants entered Kabul virtually unopposed, saying he wanted to avoid bloodshed.

It was not immediately clear how the seven people died at the airport. US troops had fired in the air to deter people trying to force their way on to a military flight that was set to take US diplomats and embassy staff out of the city.

In a social media video, at least three bodies could be seen on the ground near what appeared to be an airport side entrance.

People are desperate to flee the country although Taliban officials have said no one will be harmed.

Suhail Shaheen, a spokesperson for the Taliban, said in a message on Twitter that their fighters were under strict orders not to harm anyone.

“Life, property and honour of no one shall be harmed but must be protected by the mujahideen,” he said.

The US State Department spokesperson said on Monday that all embassy personnel, including Ambassador Ross Wilson, had been transferred to Kabul airport, mostly by helicopter, to await evacuation, and the American flag had been lowered and removed from the embassy compound. read more

Western nations, including France, Germany and New Zealand, said they were working to get citizens as well as some Afghan employees out.