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US Air Force probing deaths involving plane takeoff in Kabul

Videos of the incident, including images of people falling from the military aircraft as it took off, were widely viewed on social media.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force says its Office of Special Investigations is reviewing an incident at the Kabul airport Monday in which multiple people were killed when hundreds of Afghan civilians desperate to leave the country swarmed a C-17 cargo plane as it was attempting to take off.

The Air Force did not say how many people died. It said human remains were found in the plane’s wheel well after it landed at al-Udeid Air Base in the Gulf state of Qatar.

Videos of the incident, including images of people falling from the aircraft as it took off, were widely viewed on social media. The images captured the initial chaos of a U.S.-directed evacuation that followed the Taliban’s takeover of the country.

The Air Force said the C-17 Globemaster III had landed at Kabul airport to deliver equipment for the evacuation effort. Before the crew could offload the cargo, the aircraft was surrounded by hundreds of Afghan civilians who had breeched the security perimeter. Because the security situation was getting worse, the crew decided to take off.   

Credit: AP
Hundreds of people run alongside a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane, some climbing on the plane, as it moves down a runway of the international airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Aug.16. 2021.

U.S. President Joe Biden said Monday he stood “squarely behind” his decision to withdraw American forces from Afghanistan and acknowledged that the Afghan government’s collapse was quicker than anticipated. Addressing the nation from the White House, Biden said he faced a choice between honoring a withdrawal agreement or sending thousands more troops back to begin a third decade of war.

The president said he would not repeat the mistakes of the past, and he warned the Taliban not to interfere with the evacuation efforts, threatening to use “devastating force, if necessary.”