Teenage Afghan footballer fell to death from US plane at Kabul: federation

Published August 20, 2021
17-year-old Zaki Anwari fell to his death after trying to cling to a US plane airlifting people out of Kabul. — Photo: Twitter
17-year-old Zaki Anwari fell to his death after trying to cling to a US plane airlifting people out of Kabul. — Photo: Twitter

An Afghan footballer who played for the national youth team fell to his death after trying to cling to a US plane airlifting people out of Taliban-controlled Kabul, a sports federation said on Thursday.

The General Directorate of Physical Education and Sports of Afghanistan, a government institution that worked with sporting groups, confirmed the death of Zaki Anwari in the mayhem that erupted at the airport in the capital this week.

“Anwari, like thousands of Afghan youths, wanted to leave the country but fell off a US plane and died,” the group said in a statement posted on Facebook.

Anwari was 17 years old, the New York Times reported.

Aref Peyman, the head of media relations for the sports federation and for Afghanistan’s Olympic Committee, told the Times that Anwari had come from a low-income family in Kabul and had worked hard to achieve his dream of being on the national football team while also attending school.

Thousands of Afghans have flocked to the airport this week in a bid to flee the country, following the Taliban's lightning offensive that ended with them assuming power when president Ashraf Ghani fled.

In a harrowing video from the airport on Monday, hundreds of people were seen running alongside a US Air Force plane as it gathered speed on the runway — several men desperately holding onto the side.

Further clips on social media appeared to show two people falling to their deaths from a C-17 aircraft after it took off.

Human remains were later found in a wheel well, the US military confirmed, adding that it was investigating the reported deaths linked to the C-17.

“Before the air crew could offload the cargo, the aircraft was surrounded by hundreds of Afghan civilians,” US Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said.

“Faced with a rapidly deteriorating security situation around the aircraft, the C-17 crew decided to depart the airfield as quickly as possible.”

US President Joe Biden has come under pressure at home and abroad to explain how his administration was seemingly unprepared for the Taliban's quick assault — and the way in which US troops are retreating from Afghanistan.

When asked about the Afghans who died clinging onto the plane in an ABC News interview, Biden dismissed the question.

“That was four days ago, five days ago,” he said, according to the NYT.

Memories of the Taliban's brutal regime of the 1990s — which saw music and television banned, people stoned to death and women confined to their homes — have caused panic about what lies ahead, prompting many Afghans to try to flee.

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