A deadly gunfight broke out at Afghanistan’s main airport early Monday, with an Afghan guard killed and several others injured as US and German soldiers exchanged fire with unidentified gunmen, officials said.
The latest fatality at the troubled airport came just before 4:15 a.m. as Afghan security forces helping secure the base exchanged fire with the unidentified attackers, the German military said on Twitter.
CNN reported that a sniper outside the airport had fired at Afghan guards inside, who returned fire.
Sources told the outlet that in the confusion, US soldiers may have also shot at the Afghan soldiers — who are there to help the desperate scramble of thousands trying to flee Taliban rule — after the Afghans returned fire.
German and American troops “participated in further exchange of fire,” the German army said in a statement.
German officials initially said one member of the Afghan security forces was killed and three others were wounded.
However, Emergency, an Italian humanitarian organization that operates hospitals in Afghanistan, said it had treated six patients with bullet wounds from the airport, none of whom were in life-threatening condition.
Two NATO officials at the airport said the situation was under control and all airport gates had been closed.
The US military did not immediately acknowledge the shooting. There was no comment from the Taliban.
While it wasn’t initially clear who the “unknown attackers” were, there have been troubling scenes of Taliban troops repeatedly opening fire from outside the airport, the site of a humanitarian crisis with thousands fleeing the Islamic militant group’s rule.
The Taliban have been accused of hunting down Afghan troops helping the West, despite an earlier pledge of peace and amnesty.
There are also concerns that ISIS might target the crowds outside the airport with suicide bombers or fire missiles at US aircraft. Military planes have been executing corkscrew landings, and other aircraft have fired flares upon takeoff — both measures used to avoid missile attacks.
Monday’s deadly gunfight came a day after at least seven people — including a toddler — died in a panicked stampede of thousands.
Earlier, several others died in heartbreaking scenes of Afghans clinging to a jet, with some seen falling after it took off and at least one person crushed in the landing gear.
Foreign forces in Afghanistan have not sought to extend the Aug. 31 deadline to leave, a Taliban official said, after President Biden said US troops might stay longer to oversee a “hard and painful” evacuation.
The Taliban seized power just over a week ago as the US and its allies withdrew troops after a 20-year war launched in the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The hasty withdrawal has sparked international outrage aimed at Biden.
Biden said on Sunday the security situation in Afghanistan was changing rapidly and remained dangerous.
“Let me be clear, the evacuation of thousands from Kabul is going to be hard and painful” and would have been “no matter when it began,” Biden said in a briefing at the White House.
“We have a long way to go and a lot could still go wrong.”
Biden said he had directed the State Department to contact stranded Americans.
“We’re executing a plan to move groups of these Americans to safety and effectively move them to the airport compound … I will say again today what I’ve said before: Any American who wants to get home will get home.”
Afghan allies of the West and vulnerable Afghans such as women activists and journalists would be helped too, he said.