Hundreds of Afghans can be seen tightly packed in a US military plane after they were evacuated from the turmoiled capital Kabul late on Sunday, desperate to escaped their now Taliban-controlled country.
The photo from the US defence department and obtained by news site Defense One shows roughly 640 citizens on board the US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III from Kabul to Qatar, according to the site.
It was a much larger number than expected and came near the record for the most people ever flown in the Boeing airlifter.
A defence official told Defense One the plane was not intending to take on so many passengers but the panicked Afghans clambered on board the plane via its half-open ramp.
The official said instead of forcing the fleeing citizens off the military cargo plane, “the crew made the decision to go”.
“Approximately 640 Afghan civilians disembarked the aircraft when it arrived at its destination,” one defence official said.
Several other flights also took off with hundreds more people on board, some with even larger numbers than 640, the official said.
Afghans are fleeing the Taliban's extreme ultraconservative Islamic views, which included severe restrictions on women as well as stonings, amputations and public executions
On Tuesday the Taliban declared an “amnesty” across Afghanistan and urged women to join their government, seeking to convince a wary population that they have changed.Enamullah Samangani, a member of the Taliban’s cultural commission said: “The Islamic Emirate doesn’t want women to be victims.
CNN reporter Clarissa Ward spoke to one woman in Kabul in hiding from the Taliban
“They should be in the government structure according to Shariah law.”
But CNN reporter Clarissa Ward, who is in Kabul, said people there were "desperately afraid" and, despite Taliban assurances, were trying all avenues to get out of the country. She spoke to one woman who had worked for several international organisations, including US companies, who so afraid for her life that she is hiding.
None of the organisations she had worked for had offered to help her escape and she was increasingly afraid. "I'm thinking of my future, of my daughters, what will happen to them if they kill me, two daughters with out their mother," she said.
The desperation to leave a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan was brought to the world's attention by chaotic scenes at Kabul’s airport, where thousands of people were seen crowding onto the tarmac and clinging onto moving planes in dangerous bids to to flee.
Afghans run alongside and cling onto the side of a US military plane as it begins to take off from Kabul
Gunshots could be heard at times.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said US forces killed two people he described as carrying weapons in the melee. He said 1,000 more US troops would be deployed to secure the airfield and back up the 2,500 already there.
Late on Monday night, hundreds of people remained trapped between American forces trying to push them out of the airport and Taliban forces trying to keep them in, witnesses told the Associated Press.
A US defence official said the United States temporarily halted all evacuation flights from Kabul in order to clear the crowds on the runway, according to Reuters. The Taliban are still negotiating with political leaders of the country’s fallen government and no formal handover deal has been announced.