‘There was utter chaos’: ITBP commandos back from Afghanistan recount horror

The commandos — Dastgir Mulla from Chikkodi, Manjunath Maali from Bagalkote and Ravi Neelagar from Gadag — had been working in Kabul since 2019.

ITBP commandos from Karnataka, who returned from Afghanistan recently on an IAF aircraft, recounted the horror of their experience, saying there was “utter chaos” and even a small mistake could have led to a major disaster.

The commandos — Dastgir Mulla from Chikkodi, Manjunath Maali from Bagalkote and Ravi Neelagar from Gadag — had been working in Kabul since 2019.

“The situation started changing from August 13. There was utter chaos. You could hear shots being fired and when we planned to leave from the embassy, it took us 4-5 hours just to cover a distance of 7 km to the airport. We had to evade the Taliban as well as locals who were rushing to the airport,” one of the commandos told The Indian Express.

The commandos, who had provided protection to Indians while they were shifted from the Indian embassy in Kabul to the airport and brought back to the country, said the situation in Afghanistan during the rescue last week was precarious.

“A small mistake could have led to a major disaster but we ensured that we could safeguard the staff working in the embassy and return to India,” said one of the commandos.

Dastgir’s wife Raufa Mulla, who is eight months pregnant now, said her husband had asked her not to follow the news on television. But she ended up watching a programme on Afghanistan, after which she panicked. “I immediately called him but he promised me that he would return safely,” Raufa said.

Meanwhile, two Indians from the coastal Karnataka region, who worked at a NATO military airbase in Kabul, returned to India on Sunday after having been airlifted to Doha along with the US troops.

Jagadeesh Poojary (52) and Dinesh Rai (53) worked for a private firm in Kabul.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Poojary, a native of Moodbidri in Dakshina Kannada district, who had been working as a driver and mechanic for the last 10 years, said that he had never felt insecure in Afghanistan until the Taliban took over.

“Though we were under the protection of US Marines, the kind of things happening all around us was really sad. The runway for both civilian and NATO aircraft is the same. We saw how people were running to the airport,” Poojary said.

Rai, a heavy vehicles mechanic, said, “The US marines assured us of their protection and gave us hope.”

Poojary and Rai were airlifted to Qatar on August 16. From there, they reached Delhi on Sunday, after which they travelled back home.

Out of the 10 people from Karnataka who were identified to be in Afghanistan, nine have either returned or are on their way back after being airlifted out of Kabul as on Monday evening, sources said.

Among the people who are secure now are two Jesuit priests could not board an IAF plane on Sunday and a nun who has chosen to travel to Italy.

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