Brit soldiers help hundreds of Afghans to freedom onboard RAF jets
BRITISH soldiers marshal hundreds of people on a flight to freedom from Afghanistan — while thousands remain behind at the mercy of the Taliban.
Some 265 Brits and Afghan nationals crammed aboard the RAF C-17 transport plane which took off from the mayhem of Kabul on Saturday night heading for RAF Brize Norton.
One of the lucky few was Uber driver Helmand Khan, who had spent three days desperately trying to get past the Taliban to safety.
It came as IS jihadists threatened to attack Kabul airport and the death toll on the ground climbed to at least 20, including seven on Saturday.
Many of the victims were crushed in stampedes as the Taliban fired into the air to clear crowds. The Ministry of Defence said tonight 5,725 British and Afghan nationals had been evacuated since the rescue mission began on August 13.
Among them were 3,100 Afghans including interpreters who helped UK forces, others eligible under the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy programme, embassy staff and nationals from partner nations.
Around 1,000 had been flown out in the previous 14 hours, the MoD said, with the rescue mission “gathering pace”. One of those who made it out on Saturday’s RAF flight, Mr Khan, from West London, sat arms crossed with his children by his side.
Mr Khan, who had been visiting relatives, was seen thrusting his British passport at TV crews as he tried to get into a compound where the British Embassy house evacuees.
Despairing Mr Khan told the BBC: “You’ve seen by British passport, these are my children! I came in the morning, five o’clock, but I’m still waiting. In the last three days I am trying to go inside.”
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Watching the huge RAF plane depart were five young women sat sobbing at the runway’s edge as they waited for their flight out.
Behind them heavy machine-gun fire tracer rounds lit up the sky in a city in which they had dreamed of living successful and happy lives.
They were among lucky ones who had survived the deadly crushes and the scrums at the airport perimeter.
They had avoided the beatings by Taliban guards and had been called forward and brought to the airport.
But their tears were not of joy, or relief, but of grief. Farahnosh, 22, a medical student in Kabul, said: “I am leaving everything. My life is in Kabul. My family is in Kabul. I am a student and I love studying.”
In a line to an evacuation flight to Qatar was Mahida Foku, 16, and her family. She said: “We are leaving our hopes and our memories here. We don’t know what is ahead.”
Journalist Bilal Sarwary, who was on the same flight, said: “What you are seeing here is a brain drain. This is the cream of the crop being forced to leave.”
As the situation worsened, military planes have taken to making nose-dive combat landings at the airport amid fears of an attack. Aircraft also used flares designed to confuse heat-seeking missiles.
What you are seeing here is a brain drain. This is the cream of the crop being forced to leave.
Britain’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Sir Laurie Bristow, tweeted from the evacuation handling centre that the “huge effort” to get people out safely was “gathering pace”.
He said: “Our soldiers, our diplomats and all the forces have been working around the clock to get our British nationals, Afghan colleagues and Embassy staff to safety. There is still a huge amount of work to do.”
It emerged yesterday a mum and three children, two aged five and nine, from Notts had been flown home on a military plane.
The mum was caring for sick relatives when Kabul fell. Despite having correct documents, they said, the Taliban had stopped them leaving.
It came as soldiers continue to pluck children to safety at the airport. One photo showed US Army Sgt Breanna Jessop taking care of an unaccompanied infant waiting to be reunited with its parents.
‘Doing my job’
THE British soldier pictured holding a baby passed over barbed fence insists he was just doing his job.
The image of the Parachute Regiment corporal at Kabul airport went viral. He held the baby so its mum could also get through.
The unnamed squaddie told Sky News: “It just sums up what the guys are doing on a daily basis, not just me, everybody. First came the baby, then the mum. The baby was distressed, [but] calmed a bit — maybe I’m a natural!”
His commanding officer said he was proud of him.
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