Another Afghan evacuation flight to leave as UN warns of Taliban 'reprisals'
Kabul (AFP) –
A second charter flight was due to leave Afghanistan on Friday carrying foreigners and Afghans to Qatar in a sign the country's main airport was close to resuming commercial operations, as the United Nations warned of "credible allegations" of reprisal killings by the Taliban.
Just over 100 passengers, including some Americans, left Kabul airport on Thursday on the first flight carrying foreigners out of the Afghan capital since a US-led evacuation ended on August 30.
The White House said the Taliban had been "businesslike and professional" in allowing the flight to leave, but the United Nations envoy for Afghanistan warned the group may be targeting perceived enemies.
"We are also concerned that despite the many statements granting general amnesties... there have been credible allegations of reprisal killings," envoy Deborah Lyons said in New York.
She said Afghan security officials and people who worked for the previous administration were at risk.
Unconfirmed reports in the capital, meanwhile, suggested the Taliban may hold a ceremony to swear in the new government on Saturday -- the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks that triggered the end of their first stint in power.
As news of a resumption in evacuation flights spread, some people gathered at the airport gates, pleading with Taliban guards to get in.
"If I can't go just kill me!" said one woman, among a group of women and children each carrying backpacks.
Many Afghans in the capital are fearful of a repeat of the hardline Islamist group's brutal and repressive rule from 1996-2001.
The Taliban have already begun to segregate men and women students and medical staff, suggested women will be banned from playing sports, and unveiled an all-male government drawn exclusively from loyalist ranks.
- Flow of aid and people -
More than 100 passengers were on the Qatar Airways flight that landed in Doha on Thursday evening, 10 days after a mammoth, chaotic airlift of more than 120,000 people came to a dramatic close with the US pullout.
In the days that followed the Taliban's blitz, the airport had become a tragic symbol of desperation among Afghans terrified of the militants' return to power -- with thousands of people crowding around its gates daily, and some even clinging to jets as they took off.
More than 100 people were killed, including 13 US troops, in a suicide attack on August 26 near the airport that was claimed by the Islamic State group's local chapter.
Qatar has said it worked with Turkey to swiftly resume operations at Kabul's airport to allow the flow of people and aid.
The Taliban have repeatedly claimed they would not seek revenge against those who worked with the previous regime -- and all Afghans would be granted free passage out of the country when commercial flights resume.
The militants have pledged a more moderate brand of rule, 20 years after being kicked out of power by a US-led invasion.
However, they have shown clear signs that they will not tolerate opposition.
Earlier this week, armed Taliban militants dispersed hundreds of protesters, sometimes by firing shots into the air, in cities across Afghanistan, including Kabul, Faizabad in the northeast and Herat in the west, where two people were shot dead.
They also moved to snuff out any further civil unrest, saying protests would need prior authorisation from the justice ministry and no demonstrations were allowed "for the time being".
© 2021 AFP