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Gunfire At Kabul Airport Kills 1 Amid Chaotic Evacuations

The German military tweeted that one member of the Afghan security forces was killed and three others were wounded by “unknown attackers.”
U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Marines and Norwegian coalition forces.
Posted at 8:09 AM, Aug 23, 2021

A firefight at one of the gates of Kabul's international airport killed at least one Afghan soldier early Monday, German officials said, the latest chaos to engulf Western efforts to evacuate those fleeing the Taliban takeover of the country.

The shooting at the airport came as the Taliban sent fighters north of the capital to eliminate pockets of armed resistance to their lightning takeover earlier this month. The Taliban said they retook three districts seized by opponents the day before and had surrounded Panjshir, the last province that remains out of their control.

Afghanistan's security forces collapsed in the face of the Taliban advance, despite 20 years of Western aid, training and assistance. Tens of thousands of Afghans have sought to flee the country since, fearing a return to the brutal rule the Taliban imposed the last time they ran Afghanistan. That has led to chaos at the airport in Kabul, the main route out of the country, where some Afghan troops are assisting Western evacuation efforts.

Gunfire broke out near one of the airport's gates, where at least seven Afghans died a day earlier in a panicked stampede of thousands of people. The circumstances of the shooting, which occurred around dawn, remained unclear.

The German military tweeted that one member of the Afghan security forces was killed and three others were wounded by "unknown attackers." It later clarified that it was referring to "members of the Afghan army" involved in securing the airport.

Emergency, an Italian humanitarian organization that operates hospitals in Afghanistan, said it had treated six patients with bullet wounds from the airport, none of whom were in life-threatening condition.

The U.S. military and NATO did not immediately acknowledge the shooting. There was no comment from the Taliban.

The tragic scenes around the airport have transfixed the world. Afghans poured onto the tarmac last week and some clung to a U.S. military transport plane as it took off, later plunging to their deaths. At least seven people died that day, in addition to the seven killed Sunday.

The Taliban blame the chaotic evacuation on the U.S. military and say there's no need for any Afghans to flee. They have pledged to bring peace and security after decades of war and say they won't seek revenge on those who worked with the U.S., NATO and the toppled Afghan government.

But their fighters have violently suppressed protests and beat people with batons as they try to control the crowds outside the airport perimeter. There have also been reports in recent days of the Taliban hunting down their former enemies. It’s unclear if Taliban leaders are saying one thing and doing another, or if fighters on the ground are taking matters into their own hands.

As the airlift continues, the U.S. government asked for 18 aircraft from U.S. commercial carriers to assist in transporting Afghan refugees to their final destinations after their initial evacuation. The request fell under the Civil Reserve Air Fleet program, which was born in the wake of the Berlin airlift and can add to the military’s capabilities during crises.

Early Monday, a Delta Air Lines flight landed in Dubai and later took off for Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar, where evacuees are crowded into hangars. A steady stream of military transport planes continue to fly people out of Kabul to airfields across the Mideast.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.