An Australian citizen beaten by the Taliban while desperately trying to reach Kabul airport is believed to be in hiding but his worried family fear it is ‘only a matter of time’ before Islamist militants hunt him down.
The man, who was born overseas but lives and works as a barber in Adelaide, was assaulted as he headed to Hamid Karzai Airport along with his cousins – thought to include three men and two women.
Distressing video shows the man with blood running down his face and splattered across his polo shirt, crying out that he is an Australian citizen who was trying to reach the airport.
‘I am an Australian citizen but they hit me,’ the bloodied man says, the video cutting out with the sound of gunshots and screaming.
The man’s brother, who lives in Sydney, told Daily Mail Australia on Thursday that he has been repeatedly calling his sibling – but his phone is switched off.
The Afghan migrant’s devastated wife told the ABC she had briefly managed to get in touch with her husband after the incident, but several hours have passed since she heard from him.
‘I was devastated. I was thinking, what should I do? What can I do?’ said the woman, who reportedly requested his name be withheld.
A man claiming to be an Australian citizen was beaten bloody by Taliban guards at a checkpoint in Kabul on Wednesday, after the Taliban vowed to block any more people from going to the airport
The wife has pleaded with authorities to find the man and take him to safety. The family has heard that the man was given ‘poor medical treatment’ after the assault and had been let go by the Taliban.
The man is believed to be in hiding. However, relatives have also heard claims of Islamist militants going ‘door to door’ since.
‘His life is in major danger and it’s only a matter of time for the Taliban to find him,’ his cousin told the Mail on Thursday.
The man lives in Australia and has family who live in multiple states
It comes as Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade issued urged its citizens not to head to the airport as the situation deteriorates further in the Afghan capital.
‘Do not travel to Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport. If you’re in the area of the airport, move to a safe location and await further advice,’ the department said.
‘The situation in Afghanistan remains highly volatile and dangerous.’
It is understood the man was in Australia until June when he went to Afghanistan to visit a sick relative, but became trapped by the Taliban’s rapid takeover of the country.
A source close to the family said that one of the women accompanying the man had a phone hidden under her headscarf.
She has since messaged her Australian relatives to say the family has been split up and sent to different locations.
The assault took place despite Joe Biden demanding that the Taliban ‘allow access to the airport for those who are transporting out and no disruptions to our operations’, in return for withdrawing US troops by August 31.
Desperate Afghans waded through a sewage ditch on the outskirts of Kabul airport on Wednesday while pleading with soldiers guarding the opposite bank to put them on a plane out of the country as time runs out to flee Taliban rule
Troops force back a desperate Afghan man trying to enter the airport (left) while hundreds of others stand up to their knees in a filthy drainage ditch as the plead to be allowed to board flights out of the country
Fears are growing that crowds could try to storm the airport once civilian mercy flights stop, or that opportunistic terrorists could attack the densely-packed crowd
Keeping to that deadline means civilian mercy flights will have to stop in the coming hours so that planes can be diverted to evacuate troops.
Overnight 1,200 people were evacuated from Afghanistan on four Australian and one New Zealand flight overnight.
Almost 4000 Australians, Afghan visa holders and people from allied nations have been airlifted from chaos in the Afghan capital since the operation began.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday said the number had far exceeded the government’s expectations going into the mission.
‘It is a highly dangerous situation, we have been very honest about the nature of these challenges and the likelihood of being able to achieve everything that we would hope to achieve,’ he told reporters in Canberra.
‘But we have to deal with the reality. The terrible, brutal and awful reality of the situation on the ground.”
Biden has committed the US to withdraw by August 31, a decision that western allies warn will mean thousands of Afghans who were promised sanctuary being left behind
The Taliban has said it will now block all Afghan citizens from reaching the airport, meaning that those who are not already outside the gates face little prospect of being able to escape
American troops and their allies have evacuated some 70,000 people from the airport since the Taliban took power on August 14, but the effort falls far short of the more-than 100,000 that western nations had promised to take
A US marine comforts a child at Kabul airport as the evacuation operation nears it end, with US allies saying flights could stop within the next 24 hours
A US marine carries a child towards an evacuation aircraft at Kabul airport as the final mercy flights depart the country
How Biden has backed himself and his allies into a corner and now has little choice but to follow the Taliban’s lead
Surrounded on all sides by the Taliban, babysitting a humanitarian crisis, and reliant on a single runway as an escape route – this is the situation faced by thousands of western troops at Kabul airport.
Though Joe Biden likes to give off the impression that he is still calling the shots in Afghanistan – warning the Taliban yesterday that evacuation flights must be allowed to proceed unimpeded – in reality he has 6,000 men and women in harm’s way, and he knows it.
With all other US forces already out of the country, the troops at Hamid Karzai Airport are badly isolated and – as UK defence secretary Ben Wallace pointed out on Tuesday – all the Taliban need to do to cut them off further is to land a few mortars on the runway.
Biden tacitly acknowledged the situation on Tuesday when he told Americans that ‘the sooner we can finish [evacuating], the better,’ adding that ‘each day of operations brings added risk to our troops.’
In short, western forces are woefully unprepared for any sort of confrontation with the Taliban – meaning Biden has little option but to sing to the Islamists’ tune.
Perhaps the starkest example of the new power dynamic was the Taliban’s announcement last night that it will now block Afghans from reaching the airport – a statement that was issued at almost the same time Biden demanded that people be allowed through.
It came as little surprise to learn that Taliban fighters were paying no attention to Biden today – beating one Australian man bloody as he headed to the airstrip while turning others back.
The only way to stop them, as former head of the British armed forces General Sir Richard Barrons told the BBC, would be ‘to leave the airport, and fight the Taliban to go and get these people.’
‘I just don’t see that as a credible proposition,’ he added.
As Ben Barry of the International Institute for Strategic Studies put it to The Telegraph: ‘The UK and the US need to recognise that the country is under new management.
‘The Taliban won… They are the landlord and the last thing you want to do is upset the landlord.’
Some European nations have already ended their mercy missions. Poland has stopped flights, and both Hungarian and French jets are expected to take off for the final time within hours.
That has sparked renewed desperation among crowds of refugees at the airport, with hundreds of Afghans wading into an open sewer underneath walls where western troops stand guard today – waving papers at them in the hopes of being picked up.
Fears are now growing that civilians could rush the runway and trigger a deadly stampede in a repeat of the horror scenes from last week, or else opportunistic terror groups such as ISIS could attack packed crowds – fears that will only grow as troop numbers dwindle.
British foreign secretary Dominic Raab admitted that the UK’s mercy mission is now into its final hours with some 4,000 people – 1,250 western citizens and 2,500 Afghans – still left to rescue, though he did not say exactly when the final flight will leave or how many people may be left behind.
Mr Raab was also forced to admit that the coming days will present ‘maximum danger’ for British troops, fearing both a ‘Saigon’ moment with crowds rushing planes and threats of a ‘spectacular’ terrorist attack.
But, Mr Raab insisted, Britain will keep flying planes out of the country until the last possible moment in the hopes of getting as many people out as possible.
One British soldier, speaking anonymously to the Daily Telegraph, said his ‘biggest fear’ is a stampede at the airport and that ‘the civilians might try and get in any way they can and potentially put us all at risk.’
‘Unfortunately the quantity of civilians arriving is something we cannot control, with the majority of them not being eligible to be evacuated,’ he said, adding: ‘I and many others have seen a few mentally disturbing scenes. I think there will be more of that.’
Outlining rough plans for the British withdrawal, defence sources said the first move will be for troops to leave the Baron hotel where they have been processing paperwork of those wishing to leave the country.
Next, soldiers will hand over control of Abbey gate – located on the south east side of the airport – to US forces.
But exactly how and when they will leave the airport entirely is being kept a closely-guarded secret, amid fears that the news of a full exit could spark a rush of desperate people at the gates.
Underlining the risks, one defence source told The Telegraph: ‘It could be the airfield gets compromised by a massive incursion. It could be that the Taliban have an element that wants to put up a fight in the last days. It could be that ISIS wants to do a ‘spectacular’.’
Meanwhile Angela Merkel – who was first elected Chancellor in 2005, just four years into the war – gave a speech to the German parliament summing up the conflict as she prepares to leave power later this year.
Admitting that leaving Afghanistan now leaves her with a ‘bitter’ feeling, she insisted the west’s 20-year campaign had not been in vain and that trying to bring democracy and stability to the region was ‘worth doing’.
In a shot at Biden’s decision to withdraw, she added: ‘That the overall deployment literally stands and falls with the stance of the militarily strongest member of the alliance, the U.S., was always clear to us.
‘We will continue the evacuation operation for as long as possible, in order also to make it possible for Afghans who worked with us for security, freedom, the rule of law and development to leave the country.’
She did not give a date for when the last German evacuation flight would leave but said there are around 500 troops currently helping with the effort, some of whom are still in the country.
Even after the effort ends, she said, Germany will work to see if it could continue to help people by ‘among other things through civilian use of Kabul airport.’
Biden also admitted to the danger facing troops on Tuesday as he announced his decision on the deadline, saying: ‘The sooner we can finish, the better… each day of operations brings added risk to our troops.’
The Pentagon said on Wednesday that US forces have ‘been very clear’ with the Taliban ‘about what credentials we are willing to accept’ for people trying to get to the airport.
‘By and large, with caveats’ people have been getting through checkpoints, spokesman John Kirby said, adding ‘we also have other means to get people in.’
‘When we have reports that someone credentialed is not being let in, we are making that clear to Taliban leaders they need to let them in,’ Kirby said.