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Escape From Kabul: Afghan Wanted by the Taliban Shares Story of Flight to Italy

© Photo : Author's own workPhoto from Ziya's collection.
Photo from Ziya's collection. - Sputnik International, 1920, 06.09.2021
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More than 122,000 people were airlifted out of Kabul in the last two weeks of August after the Afghan government suddenly and unexpectedly collapsed in the face of the Taliban advance, just four months after President Joe Biden’s announcement that US forces would be leaving the country after nearly 20 years of war.
During the 15 to 30 August evacuation from Kabul, more than three dozen countries set up air bridges to extricate their citizens, soldiers, diplomatic staff and tens of thousands of Afghan civilians, most of whom had worked with the US-led coalition during its 19+ year occupation of the country.
Over 100,000 people now have stories to tell about how they were able to get out of Afghanistan with a bit of luck and some help from western pilots. Ziya, a 44-year-old engineer, is one such.
The Afghan, wanted by the Taliban*, was able to escape the country aboard an Italian military flight thanks to the fact that his brother-in-law worked as a driver for the Italian consulate in Afghanistan’s Herat province. Ziya was taken to Avezzano, a small city about 100km east of Rome, and has told his story to Sputnik Italy.
"I am a mining engineer by profession. I worked for 16 years at the Ministry of Natural Resources as a senior geologist in the area of engineering surveys and cartography. Although I did not cooperate with foreigners, I was forced to leave Afghanistan. The Taliban forced me to do so", Ziya explained.
The man says militants had repeatedly asked to speak to him after their takeover, under various pretexts, because he once served as the head of a provincial council, and as the chief of the local association of geologists.
"One evening, my relation and I rented a car for 2,000 afghani [about $23 US] and headed for the airport. Along the way there were many Taliban. There were a lot of people there. In our group there were about 70 individuals, including children. Some women with children fainted. I spent three days at the airport. On the third night, we were evacuated on board American planes to Pakistan, and then to Kuwait. After that we were transferred to an Italian plane and flown to Rome", the man recalled.
Screengrab of US Marine Michael Markland's viral video showing the chaos at Kabul's airport in the final days of the US presence there. - Sputnik International, 1920, 04.09.2021
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Ziya says that there were "a lot of difficulties" at the airport. "It was very cold and the toilet was very dirty. I caught a cold there and now I am receiving treatment", he said.
On arriving in the European nation, Ziya and his fellow Afghans were given COVID-19 tests, had their fingerprints taken and were registered with the police. They were then transferred to an International Red Cross camp in Avezzano. Ziya spent three days at the camp and has since been moved to a hotel, where he is quarantined.
“The Italians are trying very hard to help us. We were given clothes and essential supplies,” the man stressed.
Ziya has a big family still left in Afghanistan – including his wife, four sons, two daughters, five brothers, four sisters and their families. "They are all in danger. I will try to get them out of Afghanistan with the help of the Italian government", the man vowed.
As well as his story, Ziya shared with Sputnik some of the amateur photos he managed to take on his phone during the evacuation and after his arrival in Italy.
© Photo : Author's own workPhoto from Ziya's collection.
Photo from Ziya's collection. - Sputnik International
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Photo from Ziya's collection.
© Photo : Author's own workPhoto from Ziya's collection.
Photo from Ziya's collection. - Sputnik International
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Photo from Ziya's collection.
© Photo : Author's own workPhoto from Ziya's collection.
Photo from Ziya's collection. - Sputnik International
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Photo from Ziya's collection.
© Photo : Author's own workPhoto from Ziya's collection.
Photo from Ziya's collection. - Sputnik International
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Photo from Ziya's collection.
© Photo : Author's own workPhoto from Ziya's collection.
Photo from Ziya's collection. - Sputnik International
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Photo from Ziya's collection.
© Photo : Author's own workPhoto from Ziya's collection.
Photo from Ziya's collection. - Sputnik International
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Photo from Ziya's collection.
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Photo from Ziya's collection.
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Photo from Ziya's collection.
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Photo from Ziya's collection.
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Photo from Ziya's collection.
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Photo from Ziya's collection.
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Photo from Ziya's collection.
Italy codenamed its Afghanistan evacuation mission Operation Aquila Omnia (‘Eagle Totality’). The country completed its evacuations on 27 August, three days before the last US aircraft left the country. Rome deployed four Italian Air Force C-130J cargo planes to fly evacuees to Kuwait. From there, 3 KC-167A tankers awaited to take them to Italy - 224 troops and 31 vehicles were used to assist in the operation.
Rome vowed that its evacuations would ensure that all Afghans who collaborated with Italian forces during the war would be airlifted to safety. In total, Italian authorities have reported that 5,011 people were evacuated from Afghanistan during the military operation, among them 4,890 Afghan nationals.
Afghan evacuees queue before boarding one of the last of Italy's military aircraft C130J during evacuation at Kabul's airport, Afghanistan on 27 August 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 04.09.2021
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Italy was one of the first countries to join the US in its invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001 and suffered 53 deaths and 723 injuries over the 19+ years. About 50,000 Italian troops served in Afghanistan during this period. Italy completed the withdrawal of its forces in late June 2021 together with Germany – a month and a half before the Afghan government’s dramatic disintegration in the face of a Taliban assault on Kabul.

*Terrorist organisation banned in Russia and other countries.
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