At least seven people have died at the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan as thousands of foreigners and Afghan civilians tried to force their way onto planes in an attempt to flee the country, USA Today reports. According to Reuters, one witness said they saw five bodies being carried onto a vehicle on Monday (Aug. 16), but did not know whether the individuals were killed by gunfire or trampled in the stampede.
Chaos has ensued since the government of President Ashraf Ghani collapsed on Sunday (Aug. 15) and heavily armed Taliban fighters took over the presidential palace in Kabul — the country’s capital.
Kabul’s airport was closed for most of Sunday, Foreign Policy reports, in response to gunshots and fears that the Taliban would try to stop people from leaving. However, flights resume at 6 p.m. local time and were met with swarms of people trying to leave the country.
Women in Kabul have sheltered in place, fearful that the Taliban could reinstate policies that previously all but eliminated women’s rights. According to Foreign Policy, Afghans rushed to withdraw money from cash machines on Sunday to leave the country, while others remained indoors.
Taliban spokesman and negotiator Suhail Shaheen told the Associated Press that militants plan to hold talks about forming a new “open, inclusive Islamic government” in the coming days. A Taliban official also said the group plans to restore the country’s former name, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, which was changed after American forces ousted Taliban rulers in wake of the 9/11 attacks.
President Joe Biden previously sent 5,000 troops to evacuate American citizens from the country. Late in the day on Sunday, the U.S. Embassy warned Americans to shelter in place and told them not to go to the airport, while personnel at the Embassy were evacuated by helicopter. President Ashraf Ghani left the country amidst the chaos and has not publicly revealed his location.
The United States led an invasion into Afghanistan in 2001 as retaliation for the Taliban harboring al Qaeda, which planned and carried out the 9/11 attacks. For the past 20 years, the U.S. has spent trillions of dollars in war-making and nation-building efforts in Afghanistan and tens of thousands of people have been killed. Biden previously announced all U.S. troops would be withdrawn from the country by Aug. 31. See scenes from the Kabul airport on Twitter below.