People walk towards the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan August 16, 2021 in this still image taken from video. REUTERS/Reuters TV
Turkey on Monday evacuated civilians and its citizens from Kabul on a Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul, after the Taliban took control of the Afghan capital, in what some passengers described as a tense journey from the turmoil-hit country.
Thousands of civilians desperate to flee Afghanistan packed Kabul airport on Monday, prompting the U.S. military temporarily to suspend evacuations as the United States came under mounting criticism at home over its pullout.
Dogan Ozluk, a visiting lecturer at the University of Kabul, said passengers had spent the night at the airport before being brought on the evacuation flight on Monday, while others said they had to wait up three hours on the plane as troops cleared the runway of civilians.
"We were scared that the plane would not take off and that we would have to return to chaos," said Senol Celik, a Turkish diplomatic mission staff member.
"We were scared of course, but we were sad for the people there," he told Reuters TV.
State broadcaster TRT Haber said 324 people had been brought to Istanbul from Kabul on the evacuation flight.
Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Dominic Evans and Jonathan Oatis