Australians in Afghanistan desperately trying to flee the country say it is a near-impossible task as large crowds and the Taliban hamper their efforts amid a mire of gunshots and explosions.
While the first evacuees from Afghanistan arrived in Perth in the early hours of Friday, many on the ground in Kabul, the capital which was subject to a Taliban takeover on Sunday, say there is little hope of escaping.
Many are now pleading with the Australian government to do more to facilitate their safe exit as they struggle to navigate unpredictable crowds outside the airport.
"It is impossible for them to enter the airport," one man told the ABC of his mum and sister trying to reach the first flight for Australians, which took just 26 people.
"The crowds outside are chaotic. They tried but failed as it is difficult for them to manage themselves past the crowds, gunfire and even small explosions."
Afghan Australians who worked with Australian troops fear for their lives and say Taliban checkpoints at Kabul's airport will prevent their evacuation. They stress escorts are their only way out of the country.
"We need to be evacuated, and there should be someone to get us inside the airport," an Afghan who worked with the ADF told the ABC.
"They [are] going to kill us all".
Taliban soldiers have reportedly attacked people outside the terminal gates while firing into the air and throwing smoke bombs. Alarming video shared online shows terrified Afghans scream at the airport's boundary amid unrelenting gunfire.
HAPPENING NOW 🚨 Extreme chaos outside Kabul airport as Taliban force people, who came to run away from Afghanistan, to go back to their homes pic.twitter.com/RKt74RxVem
— Insider Paper (@TheInsiderPaper) August 19, 2021
The Taliban have already begun rounding up Afghans on a blacklist of people they believe worked in key roles with the previous Afghan administration or with US-led forces that supported it, according to a report by a Norwegian intelligence group.
"Taliban are intensifying the hunt-down of all individuals and collaborators with the former regime, and if unsuccessful, target and arrest the families and punish them according to their own interpretation of Sharia law," said the report, dated Wednesday.
A total of 12 people have been killed in and around the airport in Kabul Taliban and NATO officials said on Thursday.
Despite urging Australians to make their way to the airport as quickly as possible, an email to Afghan Australians from the Australian government obtained by the ABC says it was "working to obtain further instructions" on how people could access the airport.
The ABC’s foreign affairs reporter Stephen Dziedzic said on Twitter an Australian told him the situation on the ground was "unimaginable".
"There is too much shooting, people getting beaten up," the man told Dziedzic.
Government 'moving quickly' to evacuate Australians
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade urged people to only travel to the airport if it was safe to do so.
“Take all extra precautions for your safety. Large and potentially volatile crowds may gather," it said.
“Review your personal security plans and be aware of your surroundings. Make sure you have registered with DFAT.”
Foreign Minister Marise Payne said she was aware of the difficulties Australians were facing and the department was working to offer support where needed.
Australia is working to establish its own staging area at Hamid Karzai International Airport.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government was "moving as quickly as we can" and it was evident it had been a "difficult and distressing" time for those evacuated.
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