There have been devastating scenes of chaos and panic at an Afghan airport as people attempt to leave the country to escape Taliban rule.
On Sunday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country after the Taliban stormed the capital Kabul and seized his palace. It came hours after the Taliban took control of Jalalabad and means they now have seized every city in the country, creating fear about the kind of repressive regime they will implement.
The US, UK, Germany, Canada and other nations are seeking to evacuate their nationals from the country. Meanwhile, Afghans are similarly trying to flee and there have been reports that British ambassador Sir Laurie Bristow is signing their visas at Hamid Karzai airport in Kabul to help them leave.
The Kabul airport has so far not come under attack, but there are fears that could change quickly with Taliban insurgents now effectively in control of the capital. US troops have taken control of the airport and have deployed 6,000 troops to the area.
As huge crowds descended on the airport on Monday, at least seven people are reported to have died in the chaos.
The US army say soldiers shot two armed men, while footage shows at least three people appearing to fall to their deaths after they desperately clung onto a US military aeroplane taking off from the runway.
Video obtained by Afghan media had shown scores of people grabbing the side of one plane, and running alongside it.
Video: People run on tarmac of Kabul international airport as a US military aircraft attempts to take off. https://t.co/9qA36HS0WQ
Later on Monday, a Pentagon spokesman said all flights had been halted “out of an abundance of caution” as soldiers tried to clear the runways.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his priority was getting UK nationals and “all those who have helped the UK effort over 20 years” out of Afghanistan “as fast as we can”. British armed forces numbers are to be bolstered to 900, with a further 200 announced by the Ministry of Defence on Monday to help evacuate British citizens and local allies.
The following videos and photos capture the scenes.
One woman’s feet were trampled on as she walked through the airport:
My feet today at #Kabul airport. This is what happened among the crowds😔
UK defence secretary Ben Wallace earlier said on Monday: “We put in over 600 forces yesterday, today and over the weekend to make sure that we can keep a secure part of the airport functioning and, at the same time, to effectively process, manage and escort people onto our flights to get them out of Afghanistan.”
He said the government was aiming to fly out a further 1,500 people over the next 24 to 36 hours or slightly longer. Work was under way to “remove any bureaucratic barriers” to make sure people who pass screenings are able to be flown to the UK,” he added.
“We all see what we’re seeing, time is of the essence,” he said. “If we managed to keep it in the way we’re planning to, we should have capacity for over 1,000 people a day to exit to the United Kingdom. “Currently, this is not about capacity on planes, it’s about processing speeds, so that’s why I’m trying to fix that.”
On Tuesday, foreign secretary Dominic Raab said the situation at the airport in Kabul is “stabilising” and “we have made real progress” in getting people out of the country.
Speaking to Sky News, he said: “There has been a surge of US and UK troops. We have got 600 extra personnel there. It’s critically important not just for the stability on the ground for Afghans, but critically for our evacuation effort.
“We have made real progress, we had 150 British nationals come out on Sunday, over the last week we have also had 289 of those Afghan nationals who have served the UK so loyally in Afghanistan, and we expect over the next 24 hours to have 350 more both British nationals and Afghan nationals who have worked for us coming out.
“So the situation is stabilising, but obviously we are monitoring it very carefully.
“I do think that the airport is more stable today than it was yesterday, and we need to make sure that we consolidate that in the days ahead.”