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World cycling body aids in evacuation of 165 Afghans fleeing Taliban

By
Don Jacobson
A young Afghan prepares before an exercise at a freestyle cycling club in Kabul, Afghanistan, on June 29, only weeks before the Taliban seized control of the country. File photo by Hedayatullah Amid/EPA-EFE
A young Afghan prepares before an exercise at a freestyle cycling club in Kabul, Afghanistan, on June 29, only weeks before the Taliban seized control of the country. File photo by Hedayatullah Amid/EPA-EFE

Oct. 11 (UPI) -- Cycling's world governing body revealed Monday it coordinated the evacuation of 165 refugees out of Afghanistan following the country's takeover by the Taliban.

The Union Cycliste International, based in Switzerland, said 125 of them fled as part of a "vast operation" it carried out along with several partners in which female cyclists, artists, a judge, a number of journalists and human rights campaigners were successfully taken out of the country.

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The group said the effort was launched when some Afghans, particularly women, voiced fears for their lives and safety as the Taliban took power and appealed to the world cycling community and the Olympic movement for help.

They reached Europe via Albania, UCI officials said. Thirty-eight of the refugees are being settled in Switzerland with the others going to Canada, France, Israel and the United States.

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Thousands of Afghans were evacuated from the country in August after the Taliban quickly seized control of the country from the U.S.-backed government as NATO forces withdrew.

Helping in the effort were the Israel Start-Up Nation cycling academy, the non-governmental organization IsraAID, the Asian Cycling Confederation and FIFA, the world soccer governing body.

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"It is very important for the UCI to make a commitment to the members of the cycling family who are suffering due to the current situation in Afghanistan, and I am delighted that our efforts in this respect are providing opportunities for the people concerned in decent living conditions," UCI President David Lappartient said in a statement.

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The governments of Switzerland, France, Canada, Albania, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, and other countries also worked on this project.

The Afghan cycling community, he added, provided "crucial help with the evacuations."

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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