KABUL: An Afghan soldier was killed and several were wounded when a gun battle erupted on Monday amid continuing chaos at Kabul airport in Afghanistan.
More than 20 people have died in the past week, mostly from crushing and suffocation, as thousands of Afghans crowded the entrances to the airport trying to board evacuation flights after the Taliban takeover.
Monday’s death was the first confirmed from gunfire. “The incident appeared to begin when an unknown hostile actor fired upon Afghan security forces involved in monitoring access to the gate,” the US military said.“The Afghans returned fire, and in keeping with their right of self-defense, so did US and coalition troops.”
The mayhem of the massive airlift descended into farce on Monday when three US military helicopters flew less than 200 meters to bring 169 Americans into the airport from a building a short distance away.
“There’s a lot of people, and they are desperate,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said. “We are trying to do the best we can to get them out of harm’s way as fast as possible.”
A Canadian government official said: “Crowds are intense, violence is becoming more common and Taliban checkpoints in surrounding areas are preventing many from reaching the airport area.”
The G7 will meet on Tuesday to discuss the crisis, and US President Joe Biden is under pressure to extend the Aug. 31 deadline for the withdrawal of 5,800 US troops protecting the airlift.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said remaining beyond the deadline would be “extending occupation.” He said: “If the US or UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations, the answer is no. There would be consequences.”
In Kabul, authorities have begun dismantling the 4-meter steel-reinforced blast walls that have protected political leaders, government officials and foreign missions for the past 20 years.
“We plan to clear all of Kabul. The process will take months since the number of walls is very high and there is not enough machinery,” the city’s mayor, Daud Sultanzoy, told Arab News.