Afghans cling onto military plane in desperate attempt to flee Kabul as witnesses report five dead

This video contains distressing images

Watch ITV News Senior International Correspondent John Irvine’s eyewitness report from Kabul where he spoke to a Taliban commander and saw women’s beauty salons shut as the militants took over.

Seven people were killed at Kabul airport on Monday, senior US military officials said, as Afghans, desperate to flee, were seen clinging to the side of a US military plane taxiing down the runway.

Thousands of people packed into the Afghan capital’s airport on Monday, running alongside aircrafts and pushing onto planes in a last-minute attempt to flee the country after the Taliban overthrew the Western-backed government.

US officials reporting the seven deaths spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to publicly discuss ongoing operations.

Frantic Afghans run alongside and cling onto the side of a US military plane as it begins to take off from Kabul

This video contains distressing images

Meanwhile, a witness said they had seen five people being taken to a vehicle and another witness said it was not clear whether the victims were killed by gunshots or in a stampede.

The United States temporarily halted all evacuation flights from Kabul in order to clear the crowds on the runway, a US defence official told Reuters.

Shafi Arifi, who had a ticket to travel to Uzbekistan on Sunday, was unable to board her plane because it was packed with people who had raced across the tarmac and climbed aboard, with no police or airport staff in sight.

“There was no room for us to stand,” said the 24-year-old. “Children were crying, women were shouting, young and old men were so angry and upset, no one could hear each other. There was no oxygen to breathe.”

After another woman fainted and was carried off the plane, Ms Arifi gave up and went back home.

Also on Monday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the Security Council to "use all tools at its disposal" to prevent Afghanistan becoming home to global terror groups.

He also urged the 15-member council, which includes the UK and US, to stop human rights atrocities in the country.

The Taliban’s offensive has led to the displacement of people to the capital Kabul. Credit: Rahmat Gul/AP

In an emergency meeting, Mr Guterres said: “We are receiving chilling reports of severe restrictions on human rights throughout the country."

"I am particularly concerned by accounts of mounting human rights violations against the women and girls of Afghanistan."The UN chief also urged all countries to be willing to receive Afghan refugees and refrain from deporting people to Afghanistan.

He added: “At this grave hour, I urge all parties, especially the Taliban, to exercise utmost restraint to protect lives and to ensure that humanitarian needs are met”

British troops are racing against the clock to get remaining UK nationals and their local allies out of Afghanistan after the Taliban captured the capital and the presidential palace on Sunday.

Lead elements of 16 Air Assault Brigade were working with US forces to secure Kabul airport to ensure flights can continue as Afghans and foreigners alike scramble to leave. Around 4,000 British nationals and eligible Afghans are thought to be in the city and in need of evacuation.

There were desperate scenes at Kabul's international airports as people tried to escape Afghanistan after the Taliban seized control of the presidential palace

Following a meeting of the Government’s Cobra emergencies committee, Boris Johnson said his priority was to get UK nationals and Afghans who had worked with them out of the country “as fast as we can”.

The US, which announced late on Sunday it was taking charge of air-traffic control even as it lowered the flag at its Embassy, was pouring thousands of fresh troops into the country to safeguard what was gearing up to be a large-scale airlift.

The scenes of the chaotic evacuation at the airport was punctuated with sporadic gunfire as frightened Afghan families fearful of Taliban rule desperately sought flights out of the country.

The speed of the Taliban advance suggests that there may only be a short window of a few days to get people out and, while the airport has so far not come under attack, there are fears that could change quickly with Taliban insurgents now effectively in control of the capital.

In the capital, a tense calm set in. ITV News Senior International Correspondent said people Kabul were "frightened" and said there were very few women on the streets. Those that were venturing out did so wearing a burqa or face facial veils.

Taliban fighters take over security posts across Kabul on Monday

There were some reports of looting and armed men knocking on doors and gates. Fighters could be seen searching vehicles at one of the city’s main squares.

Afghanistan’s embattled president Ashraf Ghani left the country earlier on Sunday joining his fellow citizens and foreigners in a stampede to flee the advancing Taliban, signalling the end of a 20-year Western experiment aimed at remaking Afghanistan.

Triumphal fighters were pictured in the abandoned presidential palace as the militants said it is holding talks aimed at forming an “open, inclusive Islamic government”. Earlier on Sunday, an official from the militant group said it is set to declare the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan - the name of the country under Taliban rule before the militants were ousted by US-led forces after the 9/11 attacks.

Mr Ghani left along with his National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib and a second close associate on Sunday. His destination was not immediately known. Asked for comment, the president's office said it "cannot say anything about Mr Ghani's movements for security reasons". The Taliban said they were checking on his whereabouts.

Thousands of Afghans try to flee the country after the Taliban seize control

In a joint statement on Sunday night, the State Department and the Pentagon say the US nearly 6,000 troops will arrive in the region over the next two days to take over air traffic control and focus on civilian and military departures.

The officials say those leaving include American citizens who have been living in Afghanistan, locally employed staff of the US mission in Kabul and their families, and other particularly vulnerable Afghan nationals.

Nearly 2,000 Afghans eligible for US special immigrant visas have arrived in the United States over the past two weeks.

In a stunning rout, the Taliban seized nearly all of Afghanistan in just over a week, despite the billions of dollars spent by the US and Nato over nearly two decades to build up Afghan security forces.

Just days earlier, an American military assessment estimated it would be a month before the capital would come under insurgent pressure.

Taliban fighters take control of Afghan presidential palace. Credit: AP

Instead, the Taliban swiftly defeated, co-opted or sent Afghan security forces fleeing as it seized one city after another before taking the capital Kabul on Sunday. A Taliban leader seen addressing the crowd told them Kabul had been conquered and that under Sharia law, everyone's health and wealth would be secured.

President Joe Biden and other top US officials were stunned by the pace of the Taliban’s nearly complete takeover of the country, as the planned withdrawal of American forces on 31 August became an evacuation mission.

The speed of the Afghan government’s collapse and the ensuing chaos posed the most serious test of Mr Biden as commander in chief, and he has been the subject of withering criticism from Republicans who said that he had failed.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged the Taliban and all other parties to exercise the “utmost restraint” in order to protect the lives of Afghans and ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid to the country.