New Delhi: Around 150 Indian citizens picked up by the Taliban this morning have been released and are now safely inside Kabul airport, sources have said, adding that they will be airlifted out of war-torn Afghanistan soon.
2. Earlier, some news outlets in Kabul claimed the Taliban had abducted over 150 people, including Indians. The Taliban rejected that claim; a tweet by Sharif Hassan, a Kabul-based reporter for The New York Times, quoted a spokesperson for the group.
3. The Taliban’s ‘picking up’ of Indian citizens comes hours after an Air Force transport aircraft managed to evacuate around 85 Indians from Kabul; the plane has landed safely in Tajikistan, sources said, adding that a second aircraft is on standby in India.
4. Sources this morning said the government is trying to bring as many Indians as possible into the airport at Kabul to keep them safe while it works out the evacuation logistics.
5. India has evacuated all embassy staff but an estimated 1,000 citizens remain in several Afghan cities and ascertaining their location and condition is proving to be a challenge, the Home Ministry has said.
6. Among those are around 200 Sikhs and Hindus at a gurudwara in Kabul. Late Wednesday a spokesperson for the Taliban – which is trying to project a more moderate image – released a video of the gurudwara head saying he had been assured of safety.
7. Separately the political office of the Taliban also sent messages to Delhi urging against the evacuation of embassy staff, saying India had nothing to fear for their safety.
8. However, days before those ‘outreach’ messages sources said Taliban forces had entered at least two of India’s consulates, “ransacked” offices and took away documents and parked vehicles. A senior official said “we expected this…”
9. Foreign Minister S Jaishankar this week said the government is “very carefully” monitoring the situation in Kabul and Afghanistan, but that the immediate focus is on safely evacuating all citizens. Asked how India plans to deal with Taliban leadership, he said it is “early days”, and did not comment if the government is touch with the group.
10. The Taliban took control of Afghanistan Sunday, after President Ashraf Ghani fled and the group walked into Kabul with no opposition. This was after a staggeringly fast rout of major cities, after two decades of war that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.