A panicked crush of people trying to enter Kabul’s international airport killed seven Afghan civilians in the crowds, the British military said, showing the danger still posed to those trying to flee the Taliban’s takeover of the country.
The British Defence Ministry said in a statement on Sunday that, “conditions on the ground remain extremely challenging but we are doing everything we can to manage the situation as safely and securely as possible”.
The airport has been the focal point for thousands trying to flee the Taliban, who swept into Kabul a week ago after their lightning advance seized the country.
A new, perceived threat from the Islamic State (IS) group affiliate in Afghanistan has seen US military planes do rapid, diving combat landings at the airport surrounded by Taliban fighters.
Other aircraft have shot off flares on takeoff, an effort to confuse possible heat-seeking missiles targeting the planes.
On Saturday, the US Embassy issued a new security warning telling citizens not to travel to the Kabul airport without individual instruction from a US government representative.
Officials declined to provide more specifics about the IS threat but described it as significant.
They said there have been no confirmed attacks as yet by the militants, who have battled the Taliban in the past.
Meanwhile, the Taliban’s top political leader arrived in Kabul for talks on forming a new government.
The presence of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who returned to Kandahar earlier this week from Qatar, was confirmed by a Taliban official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to the news media.
Mr Baradar negotiated the militants’ 2020 peace deal with the US and he is now expected to play a key role in negotiations between the Taliban and officials from the Afghan government that the militant group deposed.
Afghan officials familiar with talks held in the capital say the Taliban have said they will not make announcements on their government until the August 31 deadline for the US troop withdrawal passes.
Abdullah Abdullah, a senior official in the ousted government, tweeted that he and ex-president Hamid Karzai met on Saturday with Taliban’s acting governor for Kabul, who “assured us that he would do everything possible for the security of the people” of the city.