150 Indian nationals held by Taliban in Kabul released: Reports

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Intl desk, Aug 21: All the Indian nationals held by the Taliban in Kabul have been released and are now inside the main airport waiting to be airlifted from war-ravaged Afghanistan, media reports said.

Some 150 people, mostly Indian nationals, were reportedly picked up by armed Taliban fighters from outside the Kabul airport on Saturday morning.

Quoting unnamed sources, multiple media outlets reported that all the “kidnapped” Indian nationals were taken by the Taliban to a nearby police station, where their travel documents were checked.

These Indians were subsequently released, and “they are now inside the Kabul airport waiting to be evacuated soon”, the reports said, citing the same sources.

Though the Indian Foreign Ministry didn’t make any official confirmation, a Taliban spokesman earlier told the local media that the Indians were not kidnapped but taken to the police station for questioning.

The Indians nationals were reportedly picked up by the Taliban a couple of hours after an Indian Air Force transport plane evacuated some 85 Indians from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.

“The aircraft has safely landed in Tajikistan. The plane will return to India after refuelling. A second aircraft is on standby at the Kabul airport for carrying out further evacuations,” sources in Delhi told UNB.

On Tuesday, India evacuated all its diplomatic staff, including the Ambassador, from its embassy in Kabul on a special flight of the Air Force, some 36 hours after the Taliban seized the capital.

“In view of the prevailing circumstances, it has been decided that our Ambassador in Kabul and his Indian staff will move to India immediately,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi tweeted that morning.

Though Afghanistan has closed its airspace for all civilian flights, military aircraft are still evacuating stranded foreign nationals with the help of the American troops stationed at the Kabul airport.

The Indian government has, meanwhile, introduced a new emergency category of e-visa to fast-track applications from Afghans seeking refuge in this country.

In the past two weeks, India has evacuated all its diplomatic staff and their families from its three consulates in Afghanistan — Kandahar, Jalalabad and Herat.

In a security advisory last week, the Indian Embassy in Kabul asked all Indian nationals visiting, staying and working in Afghanistan to keep themselves updated on the availability of commercial flights and make immediate arrangements to return to India.

The Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan on Sunday evening, with the US troops virtually ending their 20-year military presence in the South Asian country.

India is particularly worried about the implications of the withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan, given the fact that it has so far infused over three billion USD worth development aid into that country and the horrific memories of the Taliban’s role in the hijacking of an airliner in 1999.

Source: News Agencies and UNB