'At Gunpoint for 31 Hours': Details of Ashraf Ghani's Escape Revealed
14:14 GMT 03.10.2021 (Updated: 14:17 GMT 03.10.2021)
In late August, US House Republicans called for a probe into reports that Ashraf Ghani fled Afghanistan with over $169 million in cash, something that he rejected as a "baseless lie".
Former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled Kabul for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) via Uzbekistan, the newspaper Hasht e Subh Daily has cited unnamed sources close to Ghani as saying.
One source argued that shortly before Taliban* militants entered Kabul without a fight
on 15 August, Ghani along with his assistants and bodyguards left the Afghan capital on board several emergency helicopters.
"It should be noted that for many years, due to special security protocols, four helicopters were always ready to fly at any time, whether at Kabul Airport or the Presidential Palace", according to the source.
They claimed a decision to land at the Termez Airport in Uzbekistan near the Afghan-Uzbek border was made despite Ghani's entourage having failed to get in touch with the Uzbek side to get the green light for the landing.
"The pilot of Ashraf Ghani's plane, ignoring the lack of contact with Uzbek officials, called the other helicopters, saying that regardless of what was happening, they would land in the Termez Airport because the helicopters were running out of fuel. With this decision, all four helicopters landed one after another in one of the corners of Termez Airport in the territory of Uzbekistan", the source noted.
They asserted that "of [the] 54 people who landed in Termez, along with other officials, 22 were pilots, co-pilots, and Air Force technicians, and 22 were presidential bodyguards", with none of them having passports.
The insider went on to say that after Ghani and his entourage's helicopters landed at Termez Airport, "about 200 to 300 Uzbek border guards and military personnel moved around our four helicopters", ready "for any reaction with their guns".
27 September 2021, 08:32 GMT
According to the source, the Uzbek soldiers kept Ghani's entourage in custody for 31 hours, during which the personnel were on heightened alert and watched the ex-Afghan president's "every single move".
"Those 31 hours of waiting were the longest and most painful moments of my life. We had no bread to eat and no water to drink. There was no toilet, and in addition, more than 200 Uzbek soldiers guarded us with rifles ready to fire. […] Less than two or three hours after we arrived at the airport, the smell of the faeces of 50 people spread everywhere. However, the Uzbek soldiers still surrounded us, not allowing us to get away from the helicopters", the insider claimed.
They suggested that the Uzbek military men apparently perceived Ghani and his entourage as "coward fugitives who had abandoned a country that had been supported by the international community and its people for 20 years".
The source argued that the situation changed for the better on 16 August, when "after 31 hours of uncertainty, a small white plane with no government or trademark landed at Termez Airport".
It was Ghani, his spouse, and ex-presidential chief of staff who first boarded "this small plane, which had a total of 60 seats", the insider asserted, adding, "then we boarded one after the other with the same hungry stomachs, thirsty mouths, miserable conditions, and tangled hair".
"Nobody was talking and we didn't know where we were heading. Minutes later, the plane took off and they announced that we were leaving for the United Arab Emirates. Inside the plane, for the first time in 28 hours, we got some water and food", according to the source.
Hasht e Subh Daily noted that the tracking website Flight Radar indicated that Flight FJK-1255 that left Termez for the UAE capital Abu Dhabi that day was a plane from the Kazakh air carrier FlyJet.
1 September 2021, 00:47 GMT
After the aircraft landed at Abu Dhabi Airport, "several Arab men" approached Ghani's entourage and took a number of Afghan officials with them "in a respectful manner", the source went on,
He insisted that unlike the Uzbeks, the Arabs' attitude toward them was "respectful" as the "welcomed Ashraf Ghani and his companions with luxury vehicles".
The insider noted that since the moment Ashraf Ghani left the airport, he has not seen him or other officials in his entourage.
On 17 August, "some UAE officials visited us and asked us where we were going. They said there is no way for us to live in that country. Several companions, including pilots, co-pilots, and helicopter technicians, had no documents other than military IDs. They had to be transported to one of the camps recently set up for Afghan citizens by US forces in Abu Dhabi. The others each went their own way", the source concluded.
On 18 August, the UAE's Foreign Ministry confirmed in a press release that Ghani and his family were allowed entry into the Middle Eastern nation
on "humanitarian grounds". However, the brief release did not offer specifics about any asylum conditions that may have been raised or the ex-Afghan president's exact location in the UAE.
*The Taliban is a terrorist group banned in Russia and many other countries.