Shocking footage that first emerged on social media shows Afghans holding onto a plane moving on the runway and preparing to take off, in a frightful attempt to escape Kabul as Taliban forces take power. One particularly disturbing clip appeared to capture the moment when someone who clung to the plane as it ascended into the sky fell to their death.
Though reports of deaths from the chaotic departure could not be immediately verified, the videos paint a heartbreaking picture of the desperation felt by Afghans on the ground, who are scrambling to leave a country where the government collapsed on Sunday.
Kabul’s International Airport has been at the center of the drama as crowds of people fill the tarmac attempting to get on any flight leaving the country. At least three people have been killed in the melee, the Wall Street Journal reported.
But it was the apocalyptic footage of frantic crowds clamouring aboard the exterior of an already overrun U.S. Air Force C-17 aircraft that gripped the world’s attention on Monday.
People sprinted down the tarmac as the plane started picking up speed, while several others perched near the plane’s engine under its right wing. A separate clip shows something falling from the bottom of a plane after it is well into the air.
According to local news outlet Aśvaka News, three “young men… fell on top of people’s houses” while attempting to flee by desperately holding onto the plane. The news outlet also shared a video purportedly showing one of the fallen bodies of the men on a rooftop. Tolo News, Afghanistan’s largest news outlet, also shared the video, crediting witnesses.
VICE World News could not confirm the reported deaths independently.
Commercial flights are no longer leaving Kabul, and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country as the Taliban inched closer to the capital, which the fundamentalist group controlled from 1996 to 2001 before being ousted in the U.S. invasion of the country.
The U.S. Military has taken over Kabul airport to facilitate the evacuation of foreign diplomats and citizens after the Afghan government collapsed on Sunday. U.S. Marines resorted to gunfire late last night as thousands attempted to escape on a C-17 aircraft.
Afghans fear a return to Taliban rule, which in the 90s was characterised by various human rights abuses, including the prohibition of girls attending school after the age of 10, women going to work, and the use of television, radio and cinema.
Representatives of the hardline group have promised to uphold the basic rights enjoyed by Afghans, including education and freedom of expression, but many worry that the promises are hollow.