A photo showing an estimated 640 Afghan evacuees crowding inside a US Air Force jet after the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan on Sunday has gone viral.
“OK, how many people do you think are on your jet?” An air traffic controller was heard saying in an audio recording. “800 people on your jet? Holy cow... Good job getting off the ground.”
It was later confirmed that an estimated 640 Afghan civilians were onboard, Defense One reported, citing a US official.
The C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft packed with evacuees made its way out as thousands of Afghans desperate to flee flocked to the airport in the capital Kabul.
Media reported two people fell to their deaths from the underside of a US military aircraft after it took off, crashing to their deaths on roofs of homes below.
Watch: A video shows the moment Afghan citizens dropped from an aircraft near #Kabul airport after clinging on to a US Air Force plane in an attempt to flee the country amid the #Taliban takeover. #Afghanistan https://t.co/2vc7iuFmgj pic.twitter.com/MdrNlasobn— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) August 16, 2021
Flights were suspended for much of Monday, when at least five people were killed, witnesses said, although it was unclear whether they had been shot or crushed in a stampede.
Military flights evacuating diplomats and civilians from Afghanistan resumed early on Tuesday after the runway at Kabul airport was cleared of thousands of people desperate to flee after the Taliban seized the capital.
Watch: Afghan citizens trying to flee the country cling on to a US Air Force plane as it takes off from #Kabul airport amid the #Taliban takeover. #Afghanistan https://t.co/2vc7iuFmgj pic.twitter.com/sO0ltaUeqw— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) August 16, 2021
The number of civilians at the airport had thinned out, a Western security official at the facility told Reuters, a day after chaotic scenes in which US troops fired to disperse crowds and people clung to a US military transport plane as it taxied for take-off.
“Runway in Kabul international airport is open. I see airplanes landing and taking off,” Stefano Pontecorvo, NATO's civilian representative said on Twitter.
By the afternoon, at least 12 military flights had taken off, a diplomat at the airport said.
Under a US troops withdrawal pact struck last year, the Taliban agreed not to attack foreign forces as they leave.