14:35 Explosion and gunfire reported at airport
An explosion and ongoing gunfire has been reported at Hamid Karzai Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan by Wall Street Journal reporter Dion Nissenbaum.
Breaking reports of an explosion and ongoing gunfight outside Kabul airport. Developing…
u2014 Dion Nissenbaum (@DionNissenbaum) August 26, 2021
14:17 ‘We will stay until the end of the mission’ US confirms as countries abandon evacuation efforts
John Kirby, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs, has confirmed that the US will continue to evacuate as many eligible Afghans as possible until the end of their mission.
The deadline for troops to withdraw from Afghanistan is in five days, August 31, with the Taliban rejecting any possibility of an extension.
Mr Kirby’s confirmation comes as several countries – including Canada, Belgium, Denmark and Poland – withdraw troops early, citing terrorism threats.
In a tweet, Mr Kirby wrote: “Evacuation operations in Kabul will not be wrapping up in 36 hours.
“We will continue to evacuate as many people as we can until the end of the mission.”
14:03 Canada ends evacuation efforts amid terror threat
Canada has confirmed it has stopped its evacuation efforts today, five days before the official withdrawal deadline August 31.
Canada successfully helped 3,700 people flee Taliban rule.
General Wayne Eyre, acting chief of defence, said today that all countries will be asked to depart Afghanistan before the US can wrap up its mission.
He said: “We stayed in Afghanistan for as long as we could.
“We were amongst the last to cease evacuation operations.
“We wish we could have stayed longer and rescued everyone who was so desperate to leave.
“That we could not is truly heart breaking, but the circumstances on the ground rapidly deteriorated.”
14:02 Shots fired at Italian military aircraft departing Kabul
Shots have been fired at an Italian military aircraft as it departs Taliban occupied Afghanistan, a source at Italy’s Defence Ministry said.
An Italian journalist traveling on the flight told Sky 24 TG that the plane had been carrying almost 100 Afghan civilians when it came under fire minutes after take off.
The plane was not believed to have sustained damage in the attack.
13:24 Ben Wallace rages at Pen Farthing ‘myths’ on Twitter
The defence secretary has shared a furious rebuttal to claims the government blocked a flight chartered for ex-Royal Marine turned animal charity boss Pen Farthing.
Mr Farthing, who runs an animal welfare charity in Kabul, has been trying to evacuate his 68 staff members and 173 animals from Afghanistan to safety in the UK.
The privately funded plane is due to land on Friday but Mr Farthing said he was not being allowed into the airport.
The campaign to get Pen, along with animals and staff, out of Kabul has become known as Operation Ark.
There had been criticism about prioritising animals over people, but approval was given for the flight.
In a lengthy Twitter thread, Mr Wallace said claims the flight was blocked are a “total myth and is being peddled around as if that is why the pet evacuation hasn’t taken place”.
3. The issue, as those desperate people waiting outside the gates know too well, has always been getting processed through the entrances. It can take over 24hrs. There is no point turning up with a plane until the passengers / pets are airside.
u2014 Rt. Hon Ben Wallace MP (@BWallaceMP) August 26, 2021
13:15 Qatar has received 40,000 evacuees in 12 days
Qatar has received 40,000 evacuees in the last 12 days since the Taliban declared victory in Afghanistan.
Most of those people are transiting in the capital Doha and the majority have been through the US processing area of Al Udeid airbase.
Reports have described the conditions as unsanitary and deeply unpleasant with one bathroom for thousands of people and the site constantly overwhelmed.
12:59 Afghan man convicted in France days after he was evacuated from Kabul
An Afghan refugee has been given a 10-month suspended jail sentence by a French court mere days after being evacuated from Kabul for violating the terms of a surveillance order.
The man is one of five people who were placed under surveillance on arrival in France as part of an investigation into links with the Taliban.
One of these individuals is suspected of working for the Taliban – despite helping France evacuate nationals and Afghans in danger.
He and four others deemed close to him were placed under surveillance earlier this week.
The individual who has been convicted had been ordered not to leave Paris suburb Noisy-le-Grand but he left zone and was quickly arrested.
He told the court he wanted to buy medicine because he suffered from headaches and vomiting after arriving in France.
He claimed he followed a man living in the same hotel who offered to buy him these medicines, without realising that he was going to central Paris.
12:42 Afghan airline sends planes with no passengers to Iran
Afghanistan’s privately owned Kam Air has sent several of its planes to neighbouring Iran with no passengers aboard, an Iranian official said today.
“The owners of Afganistan’s Kam Air requested to move a number of their passenger planes to Iranian airports following the intensified fights and tensions in Kabul airport,” state media quoted Civil Aviation Organisation spokesman Mohammad Hassan Zibakhsh as saying.
Mr Zibakhsh said Tehran had issued a landing permit for these planes “in line with its goals of interaction with neighboring countries”.
The United States and allies are hurrying to evacuate thousands of foreigners and Afghans who helped Western countries during the 20-year war against the Taliban before the August 31 deadline.
Multiple countries including Poland and Belgium have suspended their evacuation efforts over an “imminent” terror threat from ISIS-K.
The owner of Kam Air moved the planes to protect them from the expected chaos at the airport.
12:29 Boris promises August 31 will not be the end of UK help to Afghanistan
Boris Johnson has promised that August 31 will not mark the end of the UK’s commitment to helping those who wish to flee Taliban-held Afghanistan.
The Prime Minister said that although the “lion’s share” of eligible people had now been removed from the country, he recognised “there will be people who still need help”.
Asked whether this would be challenging amid reports of the Taliban blocking the roads, Mr Johnson said: “What we’re hoping, and this is the key point that the G7 agreed, is that the Taliban understand that if they want to engage with development aid, they want to unlock those billions of funds, they want to have a diplomatic, political relationship with the outside world, then the safe passage for those who want to come out is the key precondition.”
12:14 ‘Overwhelming majority’ of eligible Afghans evacuated from Kabul, said Boris Johnson
The “overwhelming majority” of people eligible for evacuation from Kabul airport are now safely out of Afghanistan, according to Boris Johnson.
Around 15,000 people have already been evacuated by British troops, the Prime Minister said, but admitted the time remaining to airlift remaining vulnerable Afghans to safety is “quite short”.
“In the time we have left, which may be – as I am sure everybody can appreciate – quite short, we will do everything we can to get everybody else,” he added.
Boris visited Northwood HQ today to meet personnel working on the UK operation in Afghanistan (Image: GETTY)
12:06 Russia has not recognised the Taliban as the legitimate leaders of Afghanistan
Russia has not yet formally recognised the Taliban as the legitimate leaders of Afghanistan, a spokesperson for President Vladimir Putin said.
Moscow will see how the hard-line Islamists act toward the Afghan population and Russian diplomats before making a decision on the matter.
The spokesperson insisted that Russia is interested in peace and stability and said they would continue contact with the US on developing issues in the region.
This stance echoes that of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson who said he would judge the Taliban on their “actions not words” after the militant group said they posed no threat.
11:52 Afghan journalist beaten by Taliban
An Afghan journalist claims he was “suddenly attacked” by the Taliban while reporting on the rise in unemployment in Kabul.
Ziar Khan Yaad said: “I was beaten by the Taliban in Kabul’s New City while reporting.
“Cameras, technical equipment and my personal mobile phone have also been hijacked.
“Some people have spread the news of my death which is false.
“The Taliban got out of an armored Land Cruiser and hit me at gunpoint.
“I still don’t know why they behaved like that and suddenly attacked me.
“The issue has been shared with Taliban leaders; however, the perpetrators have not yet been arrested, which is a serious threat to freedom of expression.”
There have been repeated reports of attacks on journalists since the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan on 15 August.
I still don’t know why they behaved like that and suddenly attacked me. The issue has been shared with Taliban leaders; however, the perpetrators have not yet been arrested, which is a serious threat to freedom of expression.
u2014 Ziar Khan Yaad (@ziaryaad) August 26, 2021
11:44 Afghan refugees receive ‘avalanche of love’ upon arrival in the UK
Afghan families arriving in the UK from Taliban held Afghanistan are being welcomed by an “avalanche of love” from the public, says a leading charity.
British Red Cross teams are supporting hundreds of families, some said to be “incredibly traumatised” and in need of emotional support.
Basic items including warm clothes and hygiene kits are being given to the refugees on arrival by charity staff and volunteers.
Edmore Hute, the charity’s refugee support manager, said: “There’s hundreds of people who have arrived with their families fresh from a harrowing journey, leaving behind homes and loved ones in uncertainty.
“First and foremost, we are providing kindness and reassurance that they are in a safe place.
“This is vital, especially in these first days.
“Thanks to the British public for the avalanche of love, warmth and support that the evacuees have been reporting to us.”
Staff and volunteers are providing kindness and reassurance that the refugees are in a safe place (Image: GETTY)
11:28 Taliban now working WITH America and UK as fears of brutal ISIS-K caliphate explode
The Taliban is now “working” with US and UK forces following intelligence reports Kabul Airport is under threat from an ISIS-K terror attack.
Armed Forces Minister James Heappey today warned a terror attack could happen “within hours” of his morning media round.
BBC Security Correspondent Frank Gardner, who was shot by Al-Qaeda in 2004, said he “never thought it was possible” that the UK, US and the Taliban may join up for future intelligence projects.
Speaking on BBC News, Mr Gardner gave a brief description of the new ISIS-K.
He explained: “Well if you thought that the Taliban were extreme, they are nothing compared to the ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan which calls itself ISIS-K.
“They’ve got a relatively small number of people but last year alone in Kabul they carried out 24 attacks, they are absolutely ruthless and they have targeted girls’ schools, hospitals, all sorts of civilian targets.
“The threats reported is that they are looking to cause chaos at the airport because there are around 6,000+ US and British soldiers operating at the airport.”
10:40 Taliban captures more than 100 military helicopters
More footage has emerged showing the Taliban with captured military helicopters.
The hard-line Islamists are believed to have siezed more than 100 aircrafts from different nations.
A fleet of 100 Russian-made Mi-17 transport aircrafts, believed to be in various states of operability, are now in the hands of the Taliban, according to the head of a Russian state arms exporter.
This announcement comes a day after a video of the Taliban flying a captured US military helicopter began circulating on social media.
The latest footage comes after dozens of photos were released of Taliban fighters posing with sophisticated American weaponry.
More videos, believed to be taken as the hard-line Islamists made their way to Kabul, showed the advancing insurgents inspecting long lines of vehicles and opening crates of new firearms, communications gear and even military drones.
The stolen military gear, weapons and vehicles are estimated to be worth in excess of £13billion.
“Everything that hasn’t been destroyed is the Taliban’s now,” said one US official speaking on the condition of anonymity.
10:31 Pen Farthing makes direct plea to Taliban
The ex-marine turned animal charity boss has been trying to get his team and 200 animals out of Kabul on a chartered flight paid for by donations – but cannot get into the airport.
Mr Farthing is believed to be stuck at the airport gates with his staff and 173 rescued animals waiting for a flight home.
He told The Sun his animals would bake to death in their travel crates if they were not evacuated soon.
Amid reports he has been stopped by the Taliban he has made a direct plea to its spokesman on Twitter:
We have been here for 10 hours after being assured that we would have safe passage. Truly would like to go home now. Letu2019s prove the IEA are taking a different path.
u2014 Pen Farthing (@PenFarthing) August 26, 2021
10:16 Denmark and Belgium STOP evacuations
Denmark and Belgium have stopped their evacuation efforts in Afghanistan amid an “imminent” terrorism threat.
Danish defence minister Trine Bramsen said it was no longer safe to fly in or out of Kabul.
The final Danish and Belgian flights have already left Afghanistan.
Poland has also announced they will also be ceasing evacuations later today, with prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki telling a news conference: “The evacuation action from Afghanistan ends today.”
10:00 US military successfully evacuated almost 19,000 people from Kabul in past 24h
90 US military flights have successfully evacuated 19,000 vulnerable Afghans in the past 24 hours.
This latest figure brings the total evacuation number to about 88,000 people.
US Army Major General William Taylor said one evacuation flight had departed Kabul every 39 minutes yesterday.
09:45 US to prioritise troop evacuation in last two days of Kabul operation
The US military will prioritise troop evacuation and the removal of military equipment in the final two days before the withdrawal deadline on August 31, said the Pentagon.
President Joe Biden intends to remove all 5,400 military personel from Kabul airport by the end of the month.
Army Major General William Taylor, with the US military’s Joint Staff, said more than 10,000 people were currently waiting at Kabul airport waiting to be evacuated from Afghanistan.
09:30 Afghan families queuing in sewage to escape Taliban
The scramble to leave Afghanistan is becoming increasingly desperate as “imminent” terror threats risk an early end to evacuations.
Armed Forces Minister James Heappey warned that they had credible intelligence which said a lethal terrorist attack could be launched at Kabul airport in a matter of hours.
The RAF still needs to airlift out almost 2,000 Afghan interpreters and other staff who have worked for British forces.
Eligible Afghans hoping to seek asylum in the UK would be better off now heading for Afghanistan’s border and trying to make their way to a third country, defence secretary Ben Wallace is understood to have told MPs.
Despite the advice, thousands of Afghan people remain outside the airport, determined to leave the country.
09:15 RAF successfully evacuated almost 2,000 people from Kabul in past 24h
Eight RAF flights managed to lift 1,988 people from Kabul in the past 24 hours, according to Armed Forces Minister James Heappey.
This latest figure takes the total number of vulnerable people evacuated by British forces from Afghanistan to 12,279 since the Taliban swept to power.
Mr Heappey said Britain has 11 more flights scheduled out of Kabul for Thursday but declined to say whether that will be the end of the operation, citing the security of troops on the ground.
Total number of vulnerable people evacuated from Afghanistan by RAF: 12,279 (Image: GETTY)
08:57 An ‘imminent, lethal attack’ could happen in HOURS
Armed Forces Minister James Heappey has warned an “imminent, lethal attack” could be launched at Kabul airport in a matter of hours.
Speaking on Sky New Mr Heappey said: “The intelligence is so credible now and so imminent that we think [everyone gathered outside Kabul airport] should move away.
“We are doing our best to keep those who have not left safe.”
He confirmed that the RAF had 11 flights scheduled for the next 24 hours and they intend to continue processing these evacuations.
Despite the clear warnings, Mr Heappey said there were thousands of people who had ignored them and turned up to the airport in an attempt to flee the Taliban.
“I suppose their logic is that they are already fearful of their lives, so they have chosen to stay,” he added.
Alternative evacuation routes are being planned but these will not be advertised out of fear they will be targeted by terrorists.
An ‘imminent, lethal attack’ could happen in HOURS (Image: SKY NEWS)
08:33 Taliban backtrack: women WILL need a male chaperone
The Taliban has gone back on their promise to respect the rights of women by saying they will require a male escort if they wish to take a trip lasting multiple days.
Under previous Taliban rule, between 1996 and 2001, women saw their human rights severely curtailed.
They were not entitled to an education, or to join the workforce and could not leave the home without a male chaperone.
Women caught flouting the rules or misbehaving would be publicly flogged.
The Taliban said under their new government girls would be allowed an education to university level on the condition they wore a hijab head covering.
Despite chief spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid promising the New York Times that the terrorist group would be more liberal than their previous rule, he went on to say music would still be banned under their regime – as it was 20 years ago.