At least five people were killed under chaotic situation at Kabul airport on Monday as U.S. troops guarded the evacuation of diplomatic staff a day after the Taliban seized the Afghan capital and declared the war was over and peace prevailed.
A U.S. official said troops had fired in the air to deter people trying to force their way onto a military flight that was set to take U.S diplomats and embassy staff out of the fallen city. Eye witness, waiting for a flight out for hours, said it was unclear if the five had been shot or killed in a stampede.
Three bodies could be seen on the ground near what appeared to be an airport side entrance, in video posted on social media. Another witness said he had also seen five bodies.
The chaos came as Taliban officials declared the war over and issued statements aimed at calming the panic that has been building in Kabul as the militants, who ruled from 1996 to 2001, routed the U.S.-backed government’s forces.
President Ashraf Ghani fled from the country on Sunday as the Taliban militants entered Kabul virtually unopposed, saying he wanted to avoid bloodshed. Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen said in a message on Twitter their fighters were under strict orders not to harm anyone.
“Life, property and honour of none shall be harmed but must be protected by the Mujahideen,” he said.
Earlier, Mohammad Naeem, the spokesman for the Taliban’s political office, told local television the Afghan people and the Taliban had witnessed the fruits of their efforts and sacrifices over two decades. “Thanks to God, the war is over,” he proclaimed.
It took the Taliban just over a week to seize control of the country after a lightning sweep that ended in Kabul as government forces, trained for years and equipped by the United States and others at a cost of billions of dollars, melted away.
An international television broadcast footage of what it said were Taliban commanders in the presidential palace with dozens of armed fighters.
Naeem said the form of the new regime in Afghanistan would be made clear soon, adding the Taliban did not want to live in isolation and called for peaceful international relations.
The militants sought to project a more moderate face, promising to respect women’s rights and protect both foreigners and Afghans. Many people in Afghanistan, however, fear the Taliban will return to past harsh practices in their imposition of sharia religious law. During their reign, women could not work and those violating the rule were subject to punishments such as stoning, whipping and hanging.