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First commercial flight departs Kabul since Taliban takeover

First commercial flight departs Kabul since Taliban takeover
A Qatar Airways flight, similar to the one pictured, departed Kabul airport Thursday. File Photo by Senior Airman Noah Coger/U.S. Air Force | License Photo

Sept. 9 (UPI) -- The first commercial flight out of Kabul since the Taliban took over Afghanistan left the airport Thursday with Americans on board en route to Doha, Qatari officials said.

The Qatar Airways Boeing 777 took off hours after Taliban officials cleared about 200 people to fly out, including Americans, a U.S. official with knowledge of the situation told CNN. An official confirmed to The New York Times that other foreign nationals also were on board.

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Mutlaq bin Majed al-Qahtani, a special envoy from Qatar's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the plane was scheduled to stop in Doha and that passengers would head to their final destination from there.

"I can clearly say that this is a historic day in the history of Afghanistan as Kabul Airport is now operational," he said during a news conference alongside Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

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"We are very thankful to our Qatari brothers," Mujahid said, adding that the Taliban wouldn't stand in the way of people looking to leave Afghanistan as long as they have valid travel documents.

The United States and its allies coordinated the evacuation of about 124,000 people from Afghanistan in August, including some 5,500 Americans. President Joe Biden said between 100 and 200 Americans who intended to leave were still in the country as of the completion of the evacuation mission Aug. 31.

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday that the Taliban promised to allow Americans with the proper travel documents to leave Afghanistan. He said a small number of U.S. citizens were unable to depart Mazar-e-Sharif airport because of a lack of papers.

RELATED Taliban leader says Afghan women won't be allowed to play sports

Scenes from the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark A. Milley deliver remarks about the end of the 20-year military mission in Afghanistan at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Va., on September 1. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

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