Swirling and sometimes violent crowds, as well as sporadic firing, have made it difficult for people to enter the airport, especially the technical area. US forces are in control of the airport and managing the global evacuation process currently under way.
One IAF aircraft which landed in Kabul picked up 85 Indians who had managed to get inside the airport between Friday and Saturday. They were airlifted to Dushanbe in Tajikistan from where they will be brought back by civilian flights. Meanwhile, a C-17 aircraft is also parked in Dushanbe waiting for enough passengers to be picked up from Kabul.
Earlier on Saturday, reports emerged that the Taliban may have abducted Indians which created some apprehensions in New Delhi. It turned out that they were taken to a nearby police station and documents were verified. A spokesperson for the Taliban denied reports that they had abducted Indians after several news outlets began tweeting.
However, sources said Afghan nationals – even Hindus and Sikhs – were finding it more difficult to board evacuation flights to India. Some 200 Sikhs and Hindus are sheltering at a gurudwara in Kabul, and are said to be safe.
The Indian government is trying to help with the evacuation process by first registering Indians who are in Afghanistan and willing to return to India, then helping them to get to the airport. The difficulties are outside the airport. Crowds are surging and making it difficult to enter the airport, particularly from where flights are taking off.
After the first couple of days when Afghans overran the tarmac, US troops have kept a strict eye on things, making it possible for other countries to evacuate their own nationals out of Kabul. The government has said they are currently focused on getting Indian nationals out of Afghanistan.
The C-130J aircraft that reached Dushanbe took off from the Hindon airbase near Delhi late on Friday night with some Indian officials to coordinate with the US and other military forces controlling the Kabul airport, which continues to be swamped by thousands of people desperate to flee Afghanistan.
“The Indian officials will now be stationed at Kabul airport to liaise with the different authorities there. The C-130J then picked up over 80 Indians who had managed to enter the airport before its gates were closed on Friday evening due to the huge crowds and deteriorating situation there,” said a source.
The C-130J and another C-17 Globemaster-III of the IAF are stationed at Tajikistan, which shares a 1,400-km border with Afghanistan, and will be “launched” for Kabul as and when Indian nationals manage to enter the airport and time slots are available.
“It’s not possible to park the IAF aircraft at the Kabul airport due to the huge rush of planes landing and taking off from there. Additional IAF aircraft are also on standby in India,” said the source.
With the Taliban setting up checkpoints all along the way and utter bedlam prevailing at the Kabul airport, leading to the closure of the gates and restricted entry, it has become extremely difficult for people to actually board planes.
Two C-17 aircraft of the IAF had earlier brought back around 200 people, including the entire staff of the Indian embassy at Kabul, to India on August 16 and 17.
The C-17 aircraft had flown from the Hindon airbase, taken a circuitous route through Iranian airspace to avoid Pakistan and touched down at the Ayni airbase in Tajikistan for “parking” before coordinating with the US forces to land at the chaotic Kabul airport and then finally taking off for India.
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