Afghan Soldier Killed As Unknown Sniper Opens Fire at Kabul Airport

Three others were wounded in the gun battle which added further misery to the already nightmarish situation faced by people waiting to flee the country.

23 August 2021, 3:25pm

An unknown sniper opened fire on US and German troops guarding the entrances to Kabul airport killing an Afghan soldier and wounding three others on Monday. The incident forced the temporary closure of the facility gates, which is surrounded by thousands of Afghans fleeing the Taliban’s takeover of the country.

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The German military said the shooting occurred at about 4AM Monday morning Kabul time. None of the thousands of American and NATO troops inside the airport to secure the evacuations of thousands of Afghans who worked for the defeated government were injured.

The shooting disrupted an already fraught process to escape faced by foreign passport holders and Afghans approved for visas out of the country because they've worked with Western organisations. Those wishing to leave have to get through the huge, sometimes desperate and violent crowds surrounding the airport, which is ringed by Taliban checkpoints in order to pass the US military guarded gates into the airport for a flight out of the country.

On Sunday, the US military said it moved more than 10,000 people – a mix of Americans and Afghans approved for resettlement – in a single day via military transports, which have been flying nonstop for days to beat the 31st of August deadline set by both the Biden administration and the Taliban for the impromptu NATO occupation of the airport to end.

The chaotic panic to escape the Taliban began last week after the militant group swept through Afghanistan's cities in a matter of days before driving President Ashraf Ghani from the country last weekend. Throughout the week, desperate passport and visa holders both foreign and Afghan alike have besieged the American controlled airport in an effort to escape feared retribution from the triumphant Taliban. More than 20 people have died, mostly in crushing crowds outside the gates, where violence, robberies and shakedowns by armed men have become commonplace.

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France, Italy and Germany have begun aggressively removing their people from Kabul – often conducting armed operations to gather groups of their citizens to drive to the airport – whereas the US has required those who wish to leave present themselves at the increasingly chaotic gates and refused to mount specific convoy operations from Kabul to the airport.

The result is epic chaos at the gate.

“People who did not bring enough food and water and have been here for days are dying,” said one Afghan journalist by WhatsApp, who has waited for a visa from a western news organisation all week. “One woman, her baby was crushed, and the Taliban [are] demanding money to let people through the checkpoints. If I leave I might never get out and die but if I stay I might die. Nobody knows what to do.”

“And there’s rumours that Daesh might attack us here with suicide bombers,” said the journalist, of a threat from the Islamic State of Khorosan, the ISIS affiliate that opposes both the West and the Taliban and has regularly targeted Kabul and large public gatherings with suicide bombers. 

The chaos has led the UK to consider requesting an extension of the 31st of August deadline, but that could be impossible as both the United States and the Taliban – which has so far been incredibly restrained towards the thousands of enemy troops occupying the airport – have both rejected the possibility that the enclave will continue past the end of the month.

Tagged:

Kabul, worldnews

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