A group of Indian nationals is said to have been abducted and taken to an unknown location near the Kabul airport on Saturday, triggering confusion and concerns back home in India.
However, the Centre denied the kidnapping of its nationals; the Taliban too clarified the news as “false”.
Earlier, media reports said Indians were taken away and questioned and that they were “now safe” and ready for evacuation.
The Indian government has been trying to evacuate its citizens from Afghanistan. On August 21, an Indian Air Force plane flew off from Kabul airport on an evacuation mission. The government has introduced a new category ‘e-Emergency X-Misc. Visa’ to fast-track applications for entry into India.
Afghans were earlier not covered under the category and had to physically present themselves in the embassy. Given the situation in Kabul where the Indian embassy is shut, the e-visa has been introduced.
A reporter working for Afghan local media outlet Etilaatroz tweeted: All#Indians are safe. The people who took them collected their passports for checking and investigating.” It quoted a source who said the Indians would move to the #kabulairport. “Now they are in a garage close to the #Kabul airport,” Etilaatroz reporter further tweeted.
Etilaatroz quoted a source who managed to escape along with his wife and some others as having said the “abductees” included some Afghan citizens and Afghan Sikhs, “but most of them are Indians”.
The same source told Etilaatroz that Taliban officials “approached them” while they were heading to the Kabul airport in minivans for evacuation around 1 am. “When they couldn’t enter the airport, the Taliban “took them all to Tarakhil, an eastern suburb in Kabul after beating them.”
Etilaatroz said the source, his wife and a few others managed to escape by jumping outside through the windows of the minivans. “The Taliban told the passengers that they would take them into the airport through a different gate, but their whereabouts are not yet clear,” Etilaatroz said.
“The security situation in Kabul has deteriorated significantly in the last few days. It is changing rapidly even as we speak,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi has said.
He said there are a number of Afghans who have been India’s partners in the promotion of mutual developmental, educational and people-to-people endeavours and India will stand by them.
The development was first reported on the website of Etilaatroz and its sister publication Kabul Now.
There was no official word yet from Indian officials on the development. The government has kept all details of the evacuation of Indian nationals from Afghanistan under tight wraps because of operational and security reasons.
Sources said there were problems when a group of more than 200 people, including around 70 Afghan nationals and the remainder Indians, came to Kabul airport in a convoy in late August 20. The Taliban, who are outside the airport, stopped the group, following which most of the Afghans reportedly escaped.
The Indians were rounded up by the Taliban and taken to some unknown location close to the airport for further checks, sources said. Following inquiries and checking of documents such as passports, the group was sent back to the airport on August 21 afternoon, the sources added.
The development occurred after an Indian military aircraft evacuated some 80 Indians from Kabul to the Tajikistan capital of Dushanbe. Another military aircraft is reportedly on standby at Dushanbe, which is being used as a transit point by the Indian Air Force because of the limited time slots available at Kabul airport, which is controlled by the US military.
The “biggest problem” in the evacuation of Indians is the journey from different parts of the city to the airport as Kabul has been taken over by the Taliban, who have set up check posts across the capital. Adding to the worries of the Indian side are reports that terrorists from Pakistan-based groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Haqqani Network are also present among the Taliban.