Seventeen people were injured on Wednesday in a stampede at a gate to the airport in the Afghan capital, Kabul, a NATO security official said, as Western countries stepped up the evacuation of their diplomats and others.
Afghan civilians seeking to leave after the Taliban seized the capital on Sunday had been told not to gather around the airport unless they had a passport and visa to travel, said the official, who was working at the airport.
The official, who declined to be identified, said he had not heard any reports of violence by Taliban fighters outside the airport.
The group’s every action in their sudden sweep to power is being watched closely. They insist they have changed and won’t impose the same draconian restrictions they did when they last ruled Afghanistan, all but eliminating women’s rights, carrying out public executions and harboring al-Qaida in the years before the 9/11 attacks.
But many Afghans remain deeply skeptical, and the violent response to Wednesday’s protest could only fuel their fears. Thousands are racing to the airport and borders to flee the country. Many others are hiding inside their homes, fearful after prisons and armories were emptied during the insurgents’ blitz across the country.