Turkey evacuates its citizens from Afghanistan following Taliban takeover
Turkey on Monday evacuated more than 300 civilians and its citizens from Kabul after the Taliban took control of the Afghan capital, in what some passengers described as a tense journey from the turmoil-hit country.
State broadcaster TRT Haber said 324 people were brought to Turkey from Kabul on the Turkish Airlines evacuation flight, with the plane landing in Istanbul on Monday afternoon.
Dogan Ozluk, a visiting lecturer at the University of Kabul, said passengers had spent the night at the airport before being brought on the evacuation flight on Monday, while others said they had to wait three hours on the plane as troops cleared the runway of civilians.
"We were scared that the plane would not take off and that we would have to return to chaos," Senol Celik, a Turkish diplomatic mission staff member, told Reuters.
"We were scared of course, but we were sad for the people there."
Turkey's government, meanwhile, is exploring ways to keep its soldiers stationed at Kabul international airport, as the Taliban's capture of the capital rendered moot the agreement Ankara and Washington had been negotiating over the Turkish military securing the airport after US troops leave.
About 70 Italian diplomats and Afghans reached Rome on Monday after being evacuated from Kabul as well.
Their arrival came after a last-minute evacuation Sunday at Kabul's airport, as western powers scrambled to fly out their remaining embassy staff and Afghans who worked as interpreters or other support roles.
Thousands of civilians desperate to flee Afghanistan packed Kabul airport on Monday, prompting the US military temporarily to suspend evacuations as the United States came under mounting criticism at home over its pullout.
Crowds converged on the airport seeking to escape, including some clinging to a US military transport plane as it taxied on the runway, according to footage posted on social media.
Five people were reported killed in chaos at the airport on Monday. A witness said it was unclear if they had been shot or killed in a stampede. A US official told Reuters two gunmen had been killed by American forces there over the past 24 hours.