Five people were killed in chaos at Kabul airport on Monday, witnesses said. US troops guarded the evacuation of embassy staff a day after the Taliban seized the Afghan capital and declared the war was over and peace prevailed.
It was not immediately clear how the victims died. A US official said troops had fired in the air to deter people trying to force their way onto a flight. The flight had to take diplomats and embassy staff out of the fallen city.
One witness said it was unclear if the five had been shot or killed in a stampede. US officials at the airport were not immediately available for comment.
The chaos came as the Taliban declared the war over and issued statements aimed at calming the panic in Kabul. The militants, who ruled from 1996 to 2001, routed the US-backed government’s forces.
Ghani flees Kabul
President Ashraf Ghani fled from the country on Sunday as the Taliban entered Kabul virtually unopposed. He claimed he wanted to avoid bloodshed.
Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen said in a message on Twitter their fighters were under strict orders not to harm anyone.
“Life, property, and honor of none shall be harmed but must be protected by the mujahideen,” he said.
Earlier, Spokesman for the Taliban’s political office Mohammad Naeem told Al Jazeera TV, the Afghans and the Taliban had witnessed the fruits of their efforts and sacrifices over 20 years.
“Thanks to God, the war is over,” he said.
It took the Taliban over a week to seize control of Afghanistan after a lightning sweep that ended in Kabul. Afghan forces, trained for years and equipped by the US and others, melted away.
Al Jazeera broadcast footage of what it said were Taliban commanders in the presidential palace with dozens of armed fighters.
Naeem said the form of the new regime in Afghanistan would be made clear soon. He added the Taliban did not want to live in isolation and calling for peaceful international relations.
The militants sought to project a more moderate face, promising to respect women’s rights and protect both foreigners and Afghans.
Many Afghans fear the Taliban will return to past harsh practices in their imposition of sharia religious law. During their rule, women could not work and punishments such as stoning, whipping, and hanging were administered.
Both the United Nations and the US said last week they had received reports that Taliban fighters were executing surrendering government soldiers.
‘Shock’ in Afghanistan
Taliban officials said they had received no reports of any clashes anywhere in the country. “The situation is peaceful,” one said. He added the Taliban controlled 90% of state buildings and fighters had been told to prevent any damage.
“I’m in a complete state of shock,” said Sherzad Karim Stanekzai, who spent the night in his carpet shop to guard it. “I know there will be no foreigners, no international people who will now come to Kabul.”
People thronged to the airport from late on Sunday with hundreds wandering on the runways in the dark to leave before US forces took over air traffic control.
Dozens of men tried to clamber onto an overhead departure gangway to board a plane.
US forces gave up their big military base at Bagram weeks ago, leaving Kabul’s airport their only way out, to the anger of many Afghans.
“The Americans have no right to hold the airport for their own use, they could have used their own base to take people out,” said one person.
There was the prospect of chaos in the skies over Afghanistan too. Its civil aviation authority advised transit aircraft to reroute saying its airspace was uncontrolled.
Not going back!
The Pentagon on Sunday authorized another 1,000 troops to help evacuate US citizens and Afghans who worked for them.
Western nations, including France, Germany, and New Zealand were working to get citizens as well as some Afghan employees out.
In a Facebook post, Ghani said he had left the country to avoid clashes with the Taliban that would endanger millions of Kabul residents. Some social media users branded Ghani, who did not disclose his location, a coward for leaving them in chaos.
In Washington, opponents of President Joe Biden’s decision to end America’s longest war, launched after the September 11, 2001, attacks, said the chaos was caused by a failure of leadership.
Britain’s defense minister said British and NATO forces would not be returning to fight the Taliban. “That’s not on the cards,” Ben Wallace told Sky News.
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