ISLAMABAD – Dozens of desperate Afghans, including women and children, dashed toward the Kabul airport following a rumor that claimed aid flights were leaving for Turkey to help rescue earthquake victims.
Videos and photos posted on social media since Wednesday showed dozens of people running in the darkness and cold toward the airport.
The scene harked back to August, 2021, when thousands of desperate people stormed the airport for the airlift for those fleeing the Taliban takeover in the last weeks of U.S. and NATO troop withdrawal from the country.
Life in Afghanistan has only grown more grim with the onset of winter, Taliban-imposed limits on women's rights and freedoms, and grinding poverty.
“I heard that Turkey is taking out people, so I thought I can go and help people in need," said Abdul Ghafar, 26, a Kabul resident who rushed to the airport on Wednesday.
He then added: “Also this can be an opportunity for me to find a way out of the country.”
Ghafar waited for three hours in the cold near the airport, heading back home after Taliban forces said there were no such flights to Turkey.
Khalid Zadran, spokesman for the Kabul police chief in the Taliban government, said no such flights existed, and that the situation returned to normal by Thursday morning. He asked people not to disrupt public order with “baseless lies.”
The Taliban government in a statement expressed condolences to Turkey and Syria for the tragedy, in which at least 16,000 people have been killed. The Taliban administration also announced a relief package of 10 million Afghanis to Turkey and 5 million Afghanis to Syria, or about $110,000 and $55,000.