Gunshots could be heard ringing out during a live TV cross just outside Kabul airport as locals continue to desperately flee the Afghanistan capital after the takeover of the Taliban.
CNN's Clarissa Ward, who has quickly gained international recognition for her on the ground reporting in Kabul in recent days, was delivering a live cross from the street less than 200 metres from the airport where chaotic scenes continue to unfold.
A large crowd of exclusively men can be seen surrounding the reporter, who has donned a hijab since the Taliban took the city.
"You can see there's a pretty large crowd that's formed around us already because it's a pretty unusual situation to be doing live shots from here," she told the network's morning news show.
"It's definitely chaotic, it's definitely dangerous."
Ms Ward was explaining that the Taliban were periodically trying to disperse the crowds as young men "seemed to be engaging in criminal activity" almost like a game, she said.
Shots ring out behind @clarissaward - as she stands less than 200 yards from the entrance of the Kabul airport.
"It's definitely chaotic, she says. "It's definitely dangerous." pic.twitter.com/3iNgULO0fO
— Brianna Keilar (@brikeilarcnn) August 18, 2021
"I don't know of you heard that," she said as gunshots rang out in the far background.
Seconds later, louder gunshots can be heard much closer, startling the reporter.
"When there's bullets firing like that ... it's clearly not a game," she told the anchors.
"We heard the gunfire there," said anchor John Berman.
"Give us a sense, Clarissa, if the Taliban is firing into the crowds, at people, or is it crowd dispersal into the air? Are they letting anyone through?"
"From what we could see, and we only had a very limited vantage point, they’re firing to disperse the crowds. They’re not targeting people, they’re not trying to kill people. But of course the minute you’re firing willy-nilly, when you have a bunch of civilians all over the road and civilian vehicles, people get hurt," she explained.
"So there’s not a huge amount of discipline, let’s say, to use an understatement, in the ways in which they are dispersing the crowd."
Ms Ward said the gunfire was "pretty much constant" and those trying to breach the perimeter to gain entry to the airport were "running the gauntlet".
In what she later described as a "dicey situation" her and her camera crew were confronted by angry Taliban members on the street who "charged" towards them with their weapons.
— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) August 18, 2021
Taliban blocking evacuations: US reports
The Taliban may be blocking Afghans from evacuating Kabul, despite their claims to the contrary, a senior US diplomat has said.
US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman says the US has seen reports that the Taliban are preventing civilians from reaching the besieged airport.
Sherman made the remarks at a news briefing in Washington, where she said in the last 24 hours US military flights had evacuated approximately 2000 more people. Australia, meanwhile, evacuated just 26 on a flight on Wednesday.
Earlier on Wednesday, US troops guarding the evacuation effort at Kabul airport said they had fired shots in the air in an effort to control the desperate scenes.
The Taliban said their soldiers had also fired shots in an attempt to disperse crowds.
There are no indications of casualties or injuries, the Pentagon said.
"We have no intention to injure anyone," a Taliban official told Reuters.
Chaos has continued outside the airport, the official said, blaming Western forces for a "chaotic evacuation plan" from Afghanistan.
The number of US troops at Kabul's international airport reached about 4500 on Wednesday and several hundred more were expected over the next 24 hours.
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