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Firefight at Kabul airport kills Afghan guard; 16,000 more leave Afghanistan

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Firefight at Kabul airport kills Afghan guard; 16,000 more leave Afghanistan
Armed Taliban fighters are seen Saturday outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photo by Bashir Darwish/ UPI | License Photo

Aug. 23 (UPI) -- A firefight erupted early Monday between unknown attackers and Afghan security forces and Western allies at the north gate of the airport in Kabul, officials said.

The German military said via Twitter that a gunfight involving American, German and Afghan soldiers engaging unknown assailants began at 4:13 a.m.

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At least one person was killed and multiple people were injured. They were members of Afghan security forces, the military said, adding that no German soldiers were harmed.

The White House said Monday that the U.S. military evacuated about 10,400 people on 28 flights from Kabul between Sunday and Monday morning. It said other coalition members evacuated almost 6,000 on 61 planes.

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Since Aug. 14, the White House added, about 37,000 people have been evacuated and 42,000 have been relocated since the end of July.

The airport has been thrown into chaos over the past week as thousands attempt to flee the country following the fall of Kabul to the Taliban a week ago.

Taliban fighters took Kabul after quickly capturing provinces on a march toward the capital as the United States began a withdrawal from the country that is scheduled to be completed by the end of this month.

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At least 20 people have died amid stampedes near the airport in the past week as the Taliban have fired shots into the air to control crowds.

The Taliban has blamed the United States for the disarray, with leading militant official Amir Khan Mutaqi over the weekend saying that the country is calm and only the U.S.-controlled airport is in chaos.

"America, with all its power and capabilities, and with their president paying direct attention to the evacuation process, they have failed to bring order to the airport," he said in an audio statement that was shared to media, Voice of America reported.

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U.S. President Joe Biden said at a press conference Sunday that the evacuation mission of Americans and Afghans would have been "hard and painful" no matter when it occurred.

"There is no way to evacuate this many people without pain and loss, of heartbreaking images you see on television," he said. "It's just a fact. My heart aches for those people you see."

On Sunday, the Pentagon enlisted the aid of commercial airlines with the evacuations but said their planes won't fly into Hamid Karzai International Airport.

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CBS's Face the Nation on Sunday that military officials have evacuated some 30,000 people from Afghanistan and 8,000 in the previous 24 hours.

Arrangements have been made with more than two dozen nations to serve as transit or relocation points where non-citizens can be processed and undergo security checks, he said.

The State Department is in contact with Americans to help guide them to the airport, which he said was the "safest and most effective way to get people there, get them in and get them out."

Last Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul told Americans that they "cannot ensure safe passage to the Hamid Karzai International Airport."

When asked if the military would retrieve U.S. citizens located throughout the country, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said "we don't have the capability to go out and collect up large numbers of people."

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