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2021.08.23 15:01

'He left airport gates to help us'. Lithuanian soldiers airlift Afghans from Kabul

Benas Gerdžiūnas, LRT.lt2021.08.23 15:01

LRT.lt contacted an Afghan translator who is currently inside Kabul airport with his family, waiting for an evacuation to Lithuania. Speaking over WhatsApp, he said Lithuanian troops left the safety perimeter of the airport to help them get past the crowds.

LRT.lt could not verify the information provided by the Afghan translator. At present, Lithuanian officials refrain from commenting in detail about the ongoing operation.

“Today, [...] the Lithuanian representative came outside the gate and he individually supported Afghans interpreters and we got inside the airport,” said the Afghan man, who asked to remain anonymous until he reached Lithuania.

“We appreciate him for this. He was not alone – he was with British soldiers [and] other Lithuanian soldiers.”

Last week, the Lithuanian Defence Ministry announced it would be sending a team of soldiers to help transfer Afghan translators and their families to Lithuania.

Read more: Lithuanian military begins evacuations from Kabul

“We have been told by the Lithuanian representatives that we may stay here a couple of more days or we may be taken out of the Kabul airport pretty soon [...] and we have to be ready for take off any minute.” the translator said.

It was unclear what country’s planes would be taking them out of Kabul, he added.

“[The Lithuanian representative] said we may be taken directly [...] or may be taken to France or some other countries and then finally and eventually we will be taken to Lithuania.”

The call to get to the airport came late in the evening, according to the Afghan man.

“I was holding my kids and my wife was following me with my other children,” he said, adding that the Taliban are mixed in with the people outside the gates.

“It was a very dangerous trip, a couple of my friends and colleagues were beaten by the Taliban. I myself was beaten with three or four lashes,” he said.

When the Lithuanian soldier allegedly left the safety perimeter held by NATO troops, “he was holding a gun and had a couple of friends with guns”.

“At the same time he was helping men, women, and children, taking them out of the stream, [as] there was a huge stream outside of Kabul [airport] gate.”

Pictures previously posted on social media show a narrow pool of water surrounding at least one side of the airport. “We had to get inside the stream, he was helping us with the bags, with the ladies and the kids. We appreciate him for this support.”

The first group of six Afghan nationals, a driver who worked for the EU representation in Kabul and his family, arrived in Lithuania on August 20.

According to earlier official statements, there are over 100 people, including Afghan translators and their families, who helped the Lithuanian mission in Afghanistan and need to be evacuated.

Read more: Waiting for airlift to Lithuania, Afghan translators hide in Kabul: ‘delays will endanger lives

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