A United States military aircraft reportedly took off from Kabul International Airport in the Afghan capital with as many as 800 people onboard as a massive airlift got underway to evacuate foreign embassy staff and Afghan civilians who helped NATO during the last 20 years of military operations in the country.
Multiple sources claimed the Boeing C-17 Globemaster military cargo aircraft departed from the airport with hundreds of evacuees onboard and many more than the aircraft is designed to safely carry. The claims were not immediately verified by the US military.
On Sunday evening, Kabul airport was closed to all commercial flights as the security situation became increasingly unstable following the collapse of the US-led Afghan government and the Taliban power grab.
Taliban forces had earlier encircled Kabul prompting Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to flee the country and hand over control in an attempt to avoid bloodshed.
The speed with which the Taliban was able to over Kabul took the United States and other NATO members by surprise. Embassy staff had to be evacuated by helicopter to awaiting military flights after commercial services were suspended.
There were chaotic scenes at Kabul airport as civilians flooded onto the tarmac in a desperate attempt to get onto a departing flight. Emirates and flydubai refused to land in Kabul on Sunday and later suspended on flights to the airport.
A massive military airlift got underway and diplomatic efforts were made to allow Afghan civilians to leave the country if they wish. There are fears the Taliban will target anyone who helped the United States and other Western countries.
A C-17 would normally carry less than 170 passengers but it would be possible to carry many hundreds of people if all cargo was removed. In 1991, an El Al Israel Airlines operated Boeing 747 cargo aircraft reportedly airlifted a record-breaking 1,088 Ethiopian Jews from Addis Ababa to Israel.
The aircraft carried twice as many people as it was technically able to carry and two babies were born during the flight.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.