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An Afghan Solider Is Killed Amid Gunfire At Kabul Airport's Northern Gate

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And now let's go to Kabul, to the Hamid Karzai International Airport in that bowl of mountains that Quil just described. That's where we find Jane Ferguson of the "PBS NewsHour." Welcome.

JANE FERGUSON: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: We had heard reports of some kind of firefight at the airport this morning. What's going on?

FERGUSON: That's right. Two news lines this morning that are fairly significant - or very significant. The first one was that there was an exchange of fire at the airport, where we have - which has resulted in the death of one Afghan security member. That's a - there's - the remnants of the Afghan security forces are basically at the airport helping with some of the gates, managing people in and out. And they're largely commandos and special forces and elite soldiers. There was what's believed to have been a sniper fire at one of them that killed one of them, and then there was an exchange of fire afterwards. There's a little confusion about who that was with or whether or not that was with friendly fire in the kind of panic after the shooting. And there were some injuries, but one dead.

This is the first such shooting incident we know of. We know that around 20 people have been killed since this crisis began last Saturday but that, basically, those were trampling - accidental killings, accidental deaths in the crowd. But this is the first time we've seen a violent death like this.

INSKEEP: Yeah, and a lot of stray gunfire or just unexplained gunfire, but in this case, a more targeted attack.

FERGUSON: Yeah.

INSKEEP: This is happening even as thousands of people continue to crowd outside the gates of the airport where you're at. What has that been like?

FERGUSON: It has been growing in intensity every day. And unfortunately, the news that is breaking now, which is that the Taliban spokesperson has said that they will not extend the deadline after August 31 for these evacuations to continue and for the presence of U.S. and NATO and partner forces to be here. So that is going to be a huge challenge now because, of course, you heard from President Biden that they - if they have to extend, they will. But right now what we're seeing when we go down to the gates, every day we see more and more people, people even more desperate, that - they're trying to get into the airport. They're often there for days. We've seen dead bodies in the morning from those who have been crushed by the crowds. We've seen women fainting in front of us from the heat. It's August in Afghanistan, after all.

It's hard to sometimes find the words to describe the chaotic scene. Many soldiers, also Taliban commanders and Taliban fighters, firing in the air to try to keep the crowds back. So it is a completely unmanageable situation outside the airport. Inside the airport, they are getting people on planes, and they are getting planes in the air.

INSKEEP: Jane, we'd heard that U.S. citizens are being brought to the airport in different and more creative ways. They go to rally points; someone goes out and gets them and brings them in. Has that not eased the pressure at the gate at all?

FERGUSON: Not - it hasn't eased any of the pressure at the main gates that I'm seeing here because what you're seeing, really - if you're looking statistically at it, the American citizens are going to be much, much less in number than those who believe they are entitled to or they qualify for a visa. Don't forget; the administration, the Biden administration, opened the categories, as you've discussed there, so many people think that they could qualify. And they come to the airport in much larger numbers than you would have U.S. citizens in the city.

INSKEEP: Jane, thanks for your continued reporting. Be safe.

FERGUSON: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Jane Ferguson of "PBS NewsHour." And you will see more of her coverage tonight from Kabul on the "PBS NewsHour." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.