Kabul airport chaos: scenes in Afghanistan explained as people swarm runway and climb planes to escape Taliban

Thousands of Afghans rushed onto the tarmac at Hamid Karzai International airport in a bid to catch one of the few remaining flights out of Afghanistan

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At least seven people have been killed at Kabul’s airport amidst chaotic scenes as thousands tried to force their way on to outgoing flights.

Crowds mobbed the tarmac at Hamid Karzai International, doing all they could in a desperate search for a seat on the few remaining flights to escape the Taliban capture of Afghanistan.

All military and civilian flights in and out of Kabul airport have been halted, a Pentagon spokesman has said. It is unclear when they will resume, he added. US troops are currently working to secure the airport.

The Pentagon confirmed that two of the dead were armed men killed by US soldiers, as the American forces attempted to reclaim control of the airport.

Here’s what you need to know about the events at Kabul airport.

What happened at Kabul airport?

Thousands of Afghans rushed onto the tarmac at Hamid Karzai International airport in a bid to catch one of the few remaining flights out of Afghanistan.

Both US troops and Taliban fighters fired in the air as the crowd rushed to the “civilian side” of the airport grounds.

Others went on to the military side of the airport where American, British and other foreign governments were airlifting their nationals as well as some Afghans who had worked for them out of the country.

Some flights on Sunday evening had to abort take offs when families with luggage went on to the runways. American troops later cleared the area, putting up barbed wires in an effort to stop further incursions.

Videos circulating on social media showed hundreds of people running across the tarmac as US troops fired warning shots in the air.

In another video, widely circulated online, hundreds of people could be seen running alongside a US Air Force C-17 transport plane as it moved down a runway. Some clung to the side of the aircraft just before takeoff.

Another video showed several people falling through the air as the jet rapidly gained altitude over the city.

The storming of the airport, seen from space by passing satellites, raised questions about how much longer aircraft would be able to safely take off and land.

Shafi Arifi, who had a ticket to travel to Uzbekistan on Sunday, was unable to board her plane because it was packed with people who had raced across the tarmac and climbed aboard, with no police or airport staff in sight.

“There was no room for us to stand,” the 24-year-old told Associated Press. “Children were crying, women were shouting, young and old men were so angry and upset, no one could hear each other. There was no oxygen to breathe.”

Why are people attempting to leave Afghanistan?

Many people headed to the airport following the Taliban’s seizure of Kabdul.

Kabul was the last major city in Afghanistan to fall to a Taliban offensive that began months ago. The offensive accelerated in recent days as they gained control of territories, as the US military withdraws after 20 years in the country.

Evacuations of foreigners and some Afghans with links to foreign governments and organisations have been taking place, but passengers said rumours spread that even those without visas were being allowed to travel.

More than 70 countries, including European Union member states called on all parties in Afghanistan to "respect and facilitate" the departure of foreign nationals and Afghans who wish to leave.

They said: "those in positions of power and authority across Afghanistan bear responsibility — and accountability — for the protection of human life and property, and for the immediate restoration of security and civil order.”

The Taliban said that people should go back to their homes if they could not get on flights. “They should not be afraid to do so”, said an official. “ The overcrowding at the airport is dangerous.”

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