Luxembourgers still in Kabul as A400M returns to Europe
(This article was updated stating that one person with Luxembourg ties had entered Kabul airport in paragraphs three and four)
A Luxembourg military plane is making its first flight back to Europe carrying people evacuated from the Afghan capital of Kabul, but all but one of the nine people with ties to the Grand Duchy remained stranded in the country where Taliban forces are blocking the entry to the airport.
The plane, part of a joint rescue mission with Belgium, is heading towards the Melsbroek military airport near Brussels from Islamabad, with 93 people on board, Luxembourg's defence ministry said on Monday.
One of the people with ties to Luxembourg has managed to enter Kabul airport and will be transported to the EU as soon as possible, Luxembourg’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement late on Monday.
A member of the Luxembourg army and one person from the foreign affairs ministry will be sent to Kabul airport to help coordinate the return of European residents still in Afghanistan, the ministry added.
The Grand Duchy is using its massive A400M massive military transport plane to return evacuees from Islamabad to Europe, with two Belgian C130 transport planes being used to shuttle people between Kabul and the Pakistani capital.
Other planes arrived earlier on Monday morning in Belgium from Islamabad, Belgian Defence Minister Sophie Wilmès said in a tweet. One of the two planes was a chartered Air Belgium flight, Marie Cherchari, a spokesperson for the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. The other was an Airbus A330 MRT, with both planes together carrying a total of 230 people, Wilmès said on Twitter.
The C130 planes made three flights from Kabul to Islamabad on Monday, collectively carrying a total of 318 people. A fourth flight stayed on the ground for technical reasons, Wouter Poels, a spokesperson for the Belgian Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a press briefing on Monday.
It was still unclear if any of the Luxembourg evacuees, which include four Luxembourgish citizens, two Afghans living in Luxembourg and three others with ties to the country, made it onto any of Monday’s flights, Poels said.
A total of 400 people were evacuated from Kabul over Friday and the weekend, the Belgian Defence Ministry said, with two flights from Kabul to Afghanistan on Friday, two on Saturday and another on Sunday.
(Additional reporting by Heledd Pritchard)