US Air Force investigating human remains found in wheel well of C-17
18th August 2021

US Air Force is investigating after human remains were found in the wheel well of C-17 aircraft that left Kabul with swarms of Afghans clinging to it in a desperate bid to flee the Taliban

  • Remains believed to be those of an Afghan civilian who was crushed in the plane’s landing gear as it took off 
  • Harrowing footage appears to show his limp body dangling from the C-17 aircraft, while three other Afghan civilians fell to their deaths after failing to cling to the plane’s fuselage  
  • The C-17 aircraft had dropped vital cargo and equipment to aid the evacuation of American and allied personnel
  • Dozens of desperate Afghan civilians attempted to cling to the plane as it left Kabul, resulting in several deaths and forcing the plane to make an emergency landing in Qatar

The United States Air Force (USAF) has confirmed human remains were found in the wheel well of a C-17 aircraft that left Kabul, Afghanistan on Monday.   

USAF is now investigating the incident which saw dozens of desperate Afghan civilians attempt to cling to the C-17 Globemaster III as it took off from Hamid Karzai International Airport after delivering equipment to aid the evacuation of Americans and allied personnel from the Afghan capital. 

Footage captured by another civilian holding on to the side of the plane appears to show how the man was crushed to death as the landing gear was raised – his legs dangling sickeningly from the side of the aircraft.

‘The aircraft was surrounded by hundreds of Afghan civilians who had breached the airport perimeter,’ said USAF in a statement issued on Tuesday evening. 

‘Faced with a rapidly deteriorating security situation around the aircraft, the C-17 crew decided to depart the airfield as quickly as possible. Human remains were discovered in the wheel well of the C-17 after it landed at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. 

‘The aircraft is currently impounded to provide time to collect the remains and inspect the aircraft before it is returned to flying status.’ 

Up to eight people were killed amid chaotic scenes at the airport on Monday, with several civilians plummeting hundreds of feet to their death as they failed to cling to the plane. Evacuations were paused as American and allied soldiers attempted to secure the airport perimeter, before resuming 90 minutes later.

Footage appears to show the horrifying sight of a man’s body crushed in the landing gear of a US jet, with officials confirming that human remains were found after the aircraft made an emergency landing

Men flee the Taliban at Kabul airport by clinging onto the fuselage of the departing C-17 aircraft 

The horrifying scenes will likely become the defining image of America and NATO’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, a debacle that has seen President Biden accused of ‘humiliating’ his country on the world stage and western allies shamed for ‘abandoning’ Afghans who assisted their failed fight to install democracy in the country.  

Order seemed to have been restored on Tuesday after American troops secured the runway perimeter with barbed wire and Apache helicopters were brought in to drive civilians back – with people lining up to board rescue flights bound for Spain, France, India, the US and UK. 

At least 56,000 people need to be flown out of Afghanistan, including 22,000 using American special immigration visas and 4,000 Britons – though the true number is likely to be far higher once staff at dozens of embassies in the capital are taken into account. 

The Taliban declared an ‘amnesty’ across the country on Tuesday, urging people to return to their homes while vowing that government staff and women will be protected, and even invited to join the government.   

Meanwhile, Kabul’s international airport, the only way out for many, reopened to military evacuation flights under the watch of American troops. 

Still, there were indications that the situation remained tenuous. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul, now operating from the airport, urged Americans to register online for evacuations but not come to the airport before being contacted.

The German Foreign Ministry said a first German military transport plane landed in Kabul, but it took off with only seven people on board due to continued chaos. Another left later with 125 people.

By late Tuesday, the Taliban entered the civilian half of the airport, firing into the air to drive out around 500 people there, said an Afghan official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to brief journalists. 

Pandemonium unfolded at Kabul airport on Monday as thousands of people ran on to the runway in a desperate attempt to escape Taliban rule, fearing bloody reprisals by the Islamists

Thousands of Afghan civilians had raced on to the airstrip at Kabul airport before some jumped on the side of a US C-17 aircraft, which made an emergency landing in Qatar

Three people were also seen falling from one of the jet as the landing gear was retracted, before their bodies came crashing down on house rooftops in Kabul 

Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the United Nations’ high commissioner for human rights, noted the Taliban’s vows of amnesty but also gave voice to the fears of everyday Afghans, who worry the Islamists will not live up to their word.

‘Such promises will need to be honored, and for the time being – again understandably, given past history – these declarations have been greeted with some skepticism,’ he said. 

‘There have been many hard-won advances in human rights over the past two decades. The rights of all Afghans must be defended.’   

President Ashraf Ghani earlier fled the country amid the Taliban advance and his whereabouts remain unknown. 

Scenes at the airport were calmer today after American troops secured the perimeter overnight, with hundreds of people lined up behind barbed wire today trying to board Freedom Flights out

Afghan security guards try and maintain order as hundreds of people gather outside the international airport in Kabul

French security forces escort diplomatic staff and their colleagues on board an evacuation flight bound for Abu Dhabi from Kabul airport on Tuesday morning

A Spanish Airbus aircraft takes off from Zaragoza airport bound for Kabul to help evacuated embassy staff on Tuesday

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