(Add airport details, UK statement)

KABUL, Aug.22 (Reuters) – The new Afghan Taliban leadership imposed some order around the chaotic Kabul airport on Sunday, shooting in the air and using batons to ensure people line up ordered outside the main gates and did not congregate at the perimeter, witnesses said.

There were no serious injuries and long lines of people were forming outside the airport gates, witnesses said.

Australia made four flights to Kabul on Saturday evening, evacuating more than 300 people, including Australians, Afghan visa holders, New Zealanders, US and UK citizens, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said https: // www.reuters.com/world/asia- pacific / australia-evacuates-over-300-night-afghanistan-pm-2021-08-22.

On Saturday, the United States and Germany told their citizens in Afghanistan to avoid traveling to Kabul airport, citing security risks as thousands of desperate people gathered to try to flee.

At least 12 people have been killed in and around the single-track airfield since last Sunday, NATO and Taliban officials said. Some were shot and others died in stampede, witnesses said.

Britain’s Defense Ministry said seven Afghans were killed in the chaos around the airport.

“Conditions on the ground remain extremely difficult, but we are doing everything possible to handle the situation as safely and securely as possible,” the ministry said in a statement.

The Taliban’s rapid takeover of Afghanistan sparked fears of retaliation and a return to a harsh version of Islamic law that the Sunni Muslim group exercised when it was in power two decades ago.

Crowds have multiplied at the airport in the heat and dust of the day over the past week, hampering operations as the United States and other countries attempt to evacuate thousands of its diplomats and civilians as well as many Afghans. Mothers, fathers and children collided with concrete blast walls in the crush as they sought to fly away.

Switzerland postponed a charter flight from Kabul on Saturday due to chaos at the airport.

Army Maj. Gen. William Taylor, along with the US Army Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Pentagon briefing that 5,800 US troops remained at the airport and the facility “remained secure “. Taylor said some airport gates were temporarily closed and reopened over the past day to facilitate a safe influx of evacuees.

A Taliban official, speaking to Reuters on Saturday, said security risks could not be ruled out but that the group “aimed to improve the situation and provide a smooth exit” for those trying to leave during the weekend.

Taylor said the United States https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/us-says-2500-americans-evacuated-kabul-past-week-2021-08-21 during the week last evacuated 17,000 people, including 2,500 Americans, from Kabul. He said that in the past day 3,800 people were evacuated on US military and charter flights.

President Joe Biden will provide an update on the evacuation of U.S. citizens and refugees from Afghanistan on Sunday, the White House said.

The president is scheduled to speak at 4 p.m. EDT (2000 GMT), after meeting with his national security team to hear intelligence, security and diplomacy updates on developments in Afghanistan, a indicated the White House.

“COVER OUTLET”

Taliban leaders attempt to forge a new government after their forces swept the country as US-led forces withdrew after two decades as the West-backed government and military collapsed

Biden has been the subject of harsh criticism of the situation in Afghanistan, including from former President Donald Trump, who called it “the greatest humiliation in foreign policy https://www.reuters.com / world / us / trump-assails-biden-afghanistan -humiliation-2021-08-22 “in the history of the United States, even though the Trump administration had negotiated the withdrawal that triggered the collapse.

“Biden’s botched exit from Afghanistan is the most astonishing display of blatant incompetence on the part of a leader of a country, possibly at any time,” Trump said at a noisy rally in Alabama .

In Qatar, which hosts thousands of evacuees until they can enter a third country, the Afghans who fled described in interviews with Reuters https://www.reuters.com/world/afghans- speak-despair-uncertainty-after-evacuation-qatar -2021-08-21 desperation to leave loved ones behind while facing their own uncertain future.

A law student spoke of looting by the Taliban as they took control of Kabul, with armed militants intimidating people on their way to the airport. He left behind his wife, whom he married on a video call before evacuating.

“Our spirits are back at home because our families are staying,” he said on condition of anonymity over concerns about loved ones left behind.

Taliban co-founder Mullah Baradar has arrived in the Afghan capital for talks with other leaders.

The Taliban official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Baradar would hold meetings to prepare a new model of government for Afghanistan in the coming weeks, with separate teams tackling internal security and financial concerns. .

“Experts from the former government will be called in for crisis management,” the official said.

The Taliban follow an ultra-hard version of Islam. They sought to present https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/kabul-turmoil-mounts-talibans-pr-offensive-falters-2021-08-21 a more moderate face since their return to power, claiming they want peace and will respect women’s rights under Islamic law.

When in power from 1996 to 2001, also guided by Islamic law, the Taliban prevented women from working or going out without wearing a wrap-around burqa and prevented girls from going to school.

(Reporting by Kabul office, Rupam Jain; writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan; editing by William Mallard)


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