Human remains have been found in the landing gear of a U.S. Air Force plane that took off from the Kabul airport, after Afghans were seen clambering onto evacuating aircraft in a desperate attempt to flee the country.
The C-17 plane’s crew declared an emergency after its landing gear wouldn’t go up and, after it landed, found the human remains in the wheel well, the Washington Post reported, citing two sources. A POLITICO report said the remains belonged to one Afghan person.
Stowaways who hide in plane’s wheel wells face a high risk of death from falling or being crushed by the landing gear. The lack of oxygen and low temperature during the flight could also be fatal.
Footage from the Kabul international airport on Monday showed a throng of Afghans trying to board departing planes to escape the country, after Taliban fighters entered Afghanistan’s capital city on Sunday.
One shocking clip showed people holding on to the outside of a taxiing U.S. C-17 plane, as hundreds of others ran alongside it on the tarmac. In another clip, people were seen falling to their deaths from the aircraft in midair.
It is unclear if the plane where the body was found is the same one in the videos. At least seven people died in the airport chaos, including several who fell from a C-17 flight, the Associated Press reported, citing American officials. U.S. Defense Spokesman John Kirby said U.S. troops had shot dead two armed Afghans at the airport.
Although the Taliban has said it would not harm civilians, many Afghans, including those who have worked for the U.S. troops and other Western governments, fear retaliation and rights abuses under the fundamentalist group’s hardline rule.
With land borders controlled by the Taliban, the Kabul airport, now guarded by American troops, is the only way for Afghans to flee.
A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III evacuated about 640 Afghans from Kabul on Sunday, according to Defense One, even though the cargo plane was designated to carry 134 soldiers along with their equipment. A photo from the flight showed Afghans sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in the packed cabin.
U.S. troops temporarily closed the airport on Monday to clear the crowds on the runway. Evacuation flights resumed on Tuesday morning, according to Reuters.
Since U.S. troops began their pullout from Afghanistan after a 20-year war with the Taliban, the Islamist group took over the country’s regional capitals one by one as it advanced towards Kabul. Having taken over the capital, the Taliban seeks to establish a new government based on its hardline interpretation of Islamic law.