Chaos at Kabul airport: Satellite images capture the scramble to leave Afghanistan

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Kabul

Population: 4.4 million

Airport

U.S. Embassy

Kabul R.

Green

Zone

2 MILES

Satellite photos taken late Monday morning illustrate the developing chaos on the ground at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul shortly before Afghans clung to ascending planes in a desperate attempt to escape Afghanistan.

Maxar Technologies captured images of crowds from the airport’s entrance to its runway about 10:45 a.m. Soon after, news agencies and social media videos began documenting people climbing onto planes, running next to taxiing aircraft and falling from a U.S. Air Force C-17 military transport vehicle as it took flight. Several people were killed.

A U.S. official said the military was assessing the apparent deaths of two Afghan men who appeared to fall from the plane’s landing gear.

Lines of vehicles formed a haphazard traffic jam leading up to the airport, and throngs of people on foot rushed inside hoping to evacuate after Taliban insurgents’ abrupt takeover of the city on Sunday.

Scenes of deadly chaos unfold at Kabul airport after Taliban’s return

Afghans and foreigners had begun gathering at the airport over the weekend as the Taliban stormed through the country toward Kabul.

Monday morning, thousands surged toward the terminal and overwhelmed airport security forces.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters that at one point, two people at the airport exchanged gunfire with U.S. troops.

Thousands more U.S. troops are on their way to Kabul to secure the airport and aid in the evacuation of American diplomats, civilians and Afghans who helped the U.S. government.

People forced their way through the airport and onto the tarmac, surrounding planes that were waiting at gates.

Civilians and security forces crowded alongside and onto the runway, some running next to the wheels of planes that were taking off.

The Afghan Civil Aviation Authority suspended all civilian flights in and out of the Kabul airport on Monday and asked civilians not to go to the airport. The military side of the airport closed as well, as American troops worked with Turkish and other international forces to restore order and reopen it a few hours later. On Tuesday, a White House official said both the civilian and military sides had reopened.

Susannah George and Adam Taylor contributed to this report.

Read more:

The shocking speed of the Taliban’s advance: A visual timeline

Afghan security forces’ wholesale collapse was years in the making

The Taliban has retaken control of Afghanistan. Here’s what that looked like last time.

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