Taliban gunmen opened fire in several cities on Afghans celebrating their country’s Independence Day on Thursday, as they struggled to contain the chaos in the country – and a baby was seen being handed over the walls of Kabul airport, in a sign of sheer desperation.
The child was handed to soldiers standing on the perimeter wall of the airport. It was unclear whether the baby’s parents were present, or what happened next. The child’s fate was also unknown.
The distressing scene came as the U.S. finally appeared to be stepping up the pace of evacuations. Joe Biden said on Wednesday that an estimated 15,000 Americans remain, and 50-65,000 Afghans who the U.S. would like to get out of the country.
Ned Price, spokesman for the State Department, said that they expected 6,000 people to be evacuated on U.S. planes on Thursday night.
Footage on social media showed the chaotic scenes they were leaving behind.
A wailing baby is handed to a soldier standing on the perimeter wall of Kabul airport
People in Kabul run on Thursday after the Taliban opened fire on their Independence Day parade
Afghans in Kabul hold aloft the flag during Independence Day celebrations on Thursday
People carry the national flag of Afghanistan on Thursday in a convoy through Kabul
On the day Afghanistan celebrates its independence from British control in 1919, a social media video showed a crowd of men and women in Kabul waving black, red and green national flags.
‘Our flag, our identity,’ they shouted.
At some protests elsewhere, media reported people tearing down the Taliban’s white flag.
One Afghan activist, Pathan Bhai, whose YouTube channel has 122,000 viewers, posted a clip that he said showed a young man shot by the Taliban during the Independence Day parade.
It was unclear where the footage was filmed, and it could not be verified.
He told DailyMail.com that he had fled to another country, but that Taliban were searching for anyone who had worked for the U.S. or the fallen government.
A report by a Norwegian intelligence group said the Taliban had begun rounding up Afghans on a blacklist of people linked to Afghanistan’s previous administration or U.S.-led forces that supported it. Complaints by some Afghan journalists have cast doubt on assurances that independent media would be allowed.
A U.S. lawmaker said the Taliban were using files from Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security, to identify Afghans who worked for the United States.
‘They are methodically ramping up efforts to round those folks up,’ said Representative Jason Crow, who has been leading efforts in the U.S. Congress to accelerate the evacuation of American-affiliated Afghans.
‘I’ve had people send me pictures of Taliban outside their apartment complexes, searching for them.’
In another clip, shared by Indian journalist Aditya Raj Kaul, people are seen marching through the streets holding aloft a giant Afghan flag.
A giant Afghan flag is hoisted above a convoy of cars in a clip shared by an Indian journalist
The billowing flag is taken through the streets, to the astonishment of a watching Westerner
A boy on his bicycle accompanies the procession, with the giant Afghan flag
A woman, with what sounded like an Australian accent, says: ‘This is absolutely f****** incredible.
‘Despite the fact that the Taliban fired on the protesters earlier this morning, beat a bunch of them up, threw a couple of women – well, one woman and a couple of boys – into their car, beat them up some more and then sent the women home.
‘Despite this, these guys are out here with a 200 meter-long flag marching through the streets.’
One man then yells at her: ‘I hate you, Pakistan.’
Pakistan is widely believed to support the Taliban financially and strategically.
In Kabul, the Taliban fired into the air, CNN and Fox reported.
‘In many cities, the Taliban opened gunfire and charged and beat the people,’ a source told Fox News.
In the eastern city of Asadabad, a witness told Reuters that several people were killed when Taliban militants fired on a crowd.
Taliban fighters patrol the streets of Kabul on Thursday with their white flag
The Taliban were out in force on Thursday as Independence Day celebrations took place
‘Hundreds of people came out on the streets,’ witness Mohammed Salim told Reuters.
‘At first I was scared and didn’t want to go, but when I saw one of my neighbors joined in, I took out the flag I have at home.
‘Several people were killed and injured in the stampede and firing by the Taliban.’
Protests flared in the city of Jalalabad and in Paktia province, also in the east.
Kabul has been largely calm, but 12 people have been killed in and around the airport, NATO and Taliban officials said.
The U.S. military said more than 5,200 American troops were guarding Kabul airport, where multiple gates to the facility are now open, while U.S. fighter jets were flying over the city to ensure security for the evacuation operation for diplomats and civilians including some Afghan citizens.
Yet one U.S. citizen, David Marshall Fox, who moved to Afghanistan in 2013 and runs a research company, told The New York Post on Thursday that he has abandoned hope of getting onto an evacuation flight, saying the danger of his young son getting shot by the Taliban or trampled by the crowd isn’t worth it.
David Marshall Fox, who moved to Afghanistan in 2013 and runs a marketing research and production company, said on Thursday he was 10 meters from a U.S. Marine at the airport, yet unable to get out of the scrum with his three-year-old son
‘My position now, is I’m getting extremely frustrated — because no one is getting any Americans out until they can control the gates,’ Fox said.
‘For me to be 10 feet from U.S. Marines with my 3-year-old son, with my U.S. passport and not being able to get through — that’s problematic.
‘If I was by myself, I could have pushed my way through.
‘But anyone with young kids, there is no way they’re getting in.’
State Department spokesman Ned Price said 6,000 ‘fully processed’ people were currently at the Kabul airport and would soon be boarding planes.
A source told Reuters that White House officials told a congressional briefing that the United States already had evacuated 6,741 people, including 1,792 American citizens and legal permanent residents.
A shocking image on Thursday showed a near-empty mercy flight taking the wife of an ex-Royal Marine commando out of Kabul – despite Britain and the U.S. insisting the evacuation is in full swing.
Paul ‘Pen’ Farthing, a British expat who lives in Kabul, has been separated from his wife during the chaos engulfing Afghanistan.
He said on Twitter that she is now on her way home, and shared an image of the inside of what is believed to be a Norwegian plane.
‘Kaisa is on her way home! BUT this aircraft is empty… scandalous as thousands wait outside Kabul airport being crushed as they cannot get in. Sadly people will be left behind when this mission is over as we CANNOT get it right’, the ex-Marine wrote.
The Taliban swiftly conquered Afghanistan as U.S. and other foreign troops withdrew, surprising even their own leaders and leaving power vacuums in many places.
The Taliban urged unity ahead of Friday prayers, calling on imams to persuade people not to leave Afghanistan.
A shocking image shows a near-empty evacuation flight taking the wife of an ex-Royal Marine commando out of Kabul as the Taliban block thousands of Afghans from entering the capital’s airport. Paul ‘Pen’ Farthing said on Twitter: ‘Kaisa is on her way home! BUT this aircraft is empty… scandalous as thousands wait outside #Kabul airport being crushed as they cannot get in. Sadly people will be left behind when this mission is over as we CANNOT get it right’
Evacuees boarding a C-17 Globemaster III during an evacuation from Kabul on Thursday
US Marines assigned to 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit escort evacuees on Thursday