Kabul: It’s a scene that marks the chaotic end of America’s 20-year war in Afghanistan: a wooden US Air Force cargo plane takes off from Kabul airport, followed by hundreds of desperate Afghans in the plane Shaking hands and feet to climb.
As the C-17 transporter gains altitude, shaky mobile phone video captures two small dots falling from the plane.
Footage from another angle showed several people in the crowd stopping and pointing in their tracks.
The full extent of the horror becomes clear only later.
It turned out that the dots were desperate Afghans hiding in the wheel well.
As the wheels were attached to the body of the aircraft, Stowaway was faced with the choice of being crushed to death or letting go and falling to the ground.
Little is clear about what happened in that tragic takeoff on August 16, more than a month after the Taliban broke into Kabul, leaving a flood of Afghans trying to flee the country. Went.
How many were killed is also unknown.
In the video, two dots are seen falling from the plane, within a span of a few seconds.
But the two bodies landed on the same roof at the same time, suggesting that they had fallen together, so the second figure falling in the video may have been at least one other person.
Also, the US military said it still found human remains in the wheel well of a C-17 upon landing in Qatar, but did not specify how many.
At least one person, a young soccer player, died on the tarmac, being crushed under the wheels of a C-17.
The US military says it has not yet completed its investigation.
It said the C-17 was bringing supplies for the evacuation effort at the airport, but the Afghans deposited it on the tarmac as soon as it landed.
Fearing that the aircraft would be heavy, the crew decided to take off again without unloading the cargo.
Videos taken by Afghans on the tarmac show hundreds of people running alongside it, and perhaps a dozen sitting on top of the wheel, although it is not known how many jumped before the plane lifted.
One of those trapped in the wheel well was a 24-year-old dentist Fida Mohamed.
He was once full of hope, his family said.
They married last year in an extravagant ceremony that cost their family $13,000.
His dream of opening a dental clinic in Kabul had come true.
Then the Taliban captured Kabul, and all prospects for her future began to disappear, her father Penda Mohamed told the Associated Press.
The old man is still struggling to understand what his son was thinking when the wheel went into the well.
He is haunted by guilt, fearing that Fida took such a risk because he wanted to help her father pay off the huge loan taken for the wedding.
Holding his head in his hands, Penda says he spends hours imagining his son’s final minutes, the fear he must have felt as the earth beneath him began to disappear and the wheels moved in. Knowing that he had no choice but to leave.
On the ground, Abdullah Wise was sleeping in his house at the time and was woken up by a powerful noise.
His first thought was a blast.
He ran outside.
His neighbors pointed to his roof and told him about the bodies falling from the sky.
The two bodies collided in the same corner of his roof, Vaz said, pointing to the spot where the concrete was still covered in blood.
Vaz believes they were holding hands since the fall in the same spot.
They collected the remains on a cloth and took them to a nearby mosque, he said.
“For 48 hours after that, I could neither sleep nor eat,” he said.
He identified one of the bodies as that of Fida, as he had filled his father’s name and number in his pocket.
Local media said the second body was identified as that of a youth named Safiullah Hotak.
As the United States and its allies made their presence felt in Afghanistan for two weeks in late August, tens of thousands of Afghans headed to Kabul airport to escape Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.
A 2-year-old child died in the stampede.
An Islamic State group suicide bomber detonated himself in the middle of a crowd, killing 169 Afghan and 13 US military personnel.
Yet even after the explosion, thousands returned to the airport in the hope that he would come in.
The scenes were so traumatic that the US Air Force offered psychological counseling for Air Force personnel working at Kabul Airport as well as the crew of the unfortunate C-17 flight after landing at Al-Udeed Air Base in Qatar.
Another victim on 16 August was 17-year-old Zaki Anwari, a rising star of the Afghanistan national football team.
He used to spend hours watching his hero Lionel Messi play.
His brother Zakir Anwari, 20, said, “He couldn’t get enough. That’s all he talked about, that’s all he did.”
Zaki was too young to know the harsh regime of the Taliban in the late 1990s.
But as militant forces infiltrated the provinces, Zaki’s social media was flooded with rumors and horror stories about life under the Taliban.
The last time they ruled, the Taliban banned most sports, including football, and regularly rounded up prayer times forcing young men into mosques.
Zaki was certain that his dream of competing at the international level in the Afghan team was over.
Zaki had gone to the airport on August 16 with an elder brother and a cousin.
He was just there to see the car, while a cousin working for an American company tried to get to the airport.
Instead, when they left, he climbed onto the airport boundary wall.
A breathless Zaki then called his other brother Zakir.
He said he was inside the airport and was getting on a plane soon.
Zakir said he pleaded with his brother not to go, reminded him that he didn’t even have his passport or his ID card and asked him, “What would you do in America?” But his younger brother hung up, then called his mother.
“Pray for me. I’m going to America,” said Zaki.
He begged her, “Come home.”
Zaki was no longer listening.
Witnesses later told the family that he ran alongside the plane and picked up speed until suddenly he was knocked over from the side and fell under the wheel and died.
Penda Mohamed, the young dentist’s father, repeatedly watches videos on his phone showing his son dancing at their wedding.
Through his tears he said, “That was a gift from God and now God has taken it back.”