New Video Shows Joy of Afghans Who Clung to Plane. Another Shows Dead Bodies on Tarmac.

Deeply unsettling footage shows the gruesome aftermath of people falling from the sky after their failed attempt to flee Taliban rule.
August 19, 2021, 11:03am
New Video Shows Joy of Afghans Who Clung to Plane. Another Shows Dead Bodies on Tarmac.
An Afghan child walks near military uniforms at Kabul airport on August 16. Photo: Wakil Kohsar / AFP

The young Afghan men clinging to the side of the moving military plane were animated. Some cheered as the aircraft picked up speed. Some waved at onlookers, and some hopped off before the vehicle left the ground. 

In the end, none of them stood a chance of escaping the grasp of the Taliban that day.

These scenes are among those that have recently emerged in new videos from Kabul. Deeply unsettling footage has shown not just the final seconds of a plane before takeoff from the perspective of someone holding onto the aircraft, but also the gruesome aftermath of some of those people’s attempts to flee their homeland a day after the collapse of the U.S.-backed Afghan government.

In one handheld footage filmed on the runway of Kabul airport, likely on Monday, seen by VICE World News, a small crowd gathers around the bodies of people who fell from the planes to their deaths. One body is mangled and partially covered by a piece of cloth. Another next to it lies on its back, its head badly disfigured. 

One of the bodies is that of a 17-year-old teenager, whose family earlier confirmed to VICE World News had died from falling off the plane.

In the video recorded on a cellphone, a man runs towards the bodies on the runway after the plane departed.

As he sprints towards the crowd, his footsteps loud on the pavement, he can be heard saying in Pashto, “Two bodies fell over there.” When he arrives at the spot and the bodies first come into view, the man filming is out of breath. “Oh my God, oh my God,” he says repeatedly. 

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In the background a man is heard cursing former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who had fled the country the day prior, as the Taliban took over. In the background, someone suggests keeping the dead’s belongings and money aside, while another suggests taking a video to post on Facebook. After examining the bodies, the man filming asks where the other bodies are. “Over there,” a voice is heard saying. “He’s dead.” 

The man filming then runs several meters to another body down the tarmac. A third body shows a bloodied face and broken bones. Voices can be heard asking about why the person had clung to the aircraft, and another claims that his body was twisted by the tyre of the plane. The video then ends.

Scenes like this have been circulating on the internet over the past few days. The deadly chaos followed the Taliban’s arrival on Sunday at Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul. The fear of living under the fundamentalist group’s regime prompted many to flee to the city’s Hamid Karzai International Airport in a desperate, last-ditch effort to escape the country.

Another recently emerged video captures the first-person perspective of a young man hanging to the side of a C-17 U.S. military plane, presumably on the same day, as it taxis along the runway before taking off from the airport.

The video shows the face of the person behind the camera through a selfie shot, and a cluster of individuals waving from their tenuous position under the wing of the aircraft in front of him, their hair blowing in the wind, as lines of people watch from the side of the tarmac. A handful of them appear to abandon the effort, running off across the runway, while others cheer and punch the air as the engine roar intensifies and the aircraft accelerates.

“Hey where are we going?” one voice can be heard saying in Dari towards the end of the clip. “The wind will hit us when it flies,” says another.

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The short dialogue highlights the innocence and youth of the men in the video, who appeared to not realise the life-threatening danger of clambering onto a departing aircraft.

We Spoke to Afghans Who Escaped Kabul as the Taliban Closed In

Seconds later the recording stops. It is not known what happened to the person who filmed the video, nor the people sitting on the aircraft’s landing gear doors, which swing downwards when the wheels retract.

These are the latest videos following a series of heartbreaking footage from earlier in the week uploaded to social media, and appear to close the loop of previous incidents shown on video. 

On Monday, videos showed throngs of people running alongside and clambering on board a moving U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane as it prepared to take off. Another chilling video shows specks in the sky – later confirmed to be people – falling off a U.S. military plane as it makes its ascent out of the city.

Dramatic aerial photos taken over the airport on Monday morning showed hundreds of people crowding along the runways. Aside from bodies on the tarmac, human remains were also found in the landing gear of a plane of the same model.

“Everyone is trying to run away,” a family member of the teenager who died told VICE World News. “It is in fear of the Taliban, they are killing people. They have all left to the airport from lack of jobs and opportunity. They want to go abroad.”

The U.S. government has deployed 5,000 troops to secure the Kabul airport and continued efforts to evacuate Americans. But access to the airport remained uncertain, with Taliban fighters guarding the entrances and beating back crowds of Afghans.