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Afghanistan turmoil

Asian countries rush to bring back citizens from Afghanistan

India evacuates embassy staff while Chinese mission 'operating normally'

Hundreds of people run alongside a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane as it moves down a runway of the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug.16.   © AP

NEW DELHI -- Asian countries -- including India, the Philippines and South Korea -- are rushing to evacuate diplomats and citizens from Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan, which has fallen under the control of the Taliban, amid similar rescue efforts by countries around the world.

"In view of the prevailing circumstances, it has been decided that our ambassador in Kabul and his Indian staff will move to India immediately," Indian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi posted on Twitter on Tuesday.

A few hours later an Indian Air Force plane brought embassy staff back home safely. The development came hours after External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said he had discussed the latest developments in Afghanistan with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and underlined the urgency of restoring airport operations in Kabul. "Deeply appreciate the American efforts underway in this regard," he tweeted.

His ministry has also set up a special Afghanistan cell to coordinate repatriation efforts and other requests for help from the country. The Indian Home Ministry announced separately that a new category of electronic visa had been introduced to fast-track visa applications for entry into India.

The lightning speed with which the Taliban -- which was ousted from power in 2001 by the U.S. and allied forces who invaded Afghanistan in response to the Sept. 11 attacks -- have taken control of almost the entire country after American troops began their withdrawal has left most of the world stunned.

Passengers from Kabul arrive at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, India, on Aug 15.   © Getty Images

As the Islamist militant group seized Kabul on Sunday, the U.S.-backed government collapsed and President Ashraf Ghani fled the country. Many countries have shut their embassies in Kabul, while the U.S. and the U.K. sent troops to help evacuate their diplomatic staff.

Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Tuesday that its embassy in Kabul was temporarily closed on Sunday and 12 embassy staff had been evacuated to Dubai. "They left Kabul International Airport on board a military plane of a friendly country," the ministry said in a statement without disclosing the name of the country.

Other Asian countries too are scrambling to repatriate their nationals from Afghanistan as the crisis deepens and panic grips the people.

"Arrival of Nepali nationals from Afghanistan has started, 118 of them have arrived at Kathmandu airport by a chartered aircraft via Kuwait this morning," Nepal's Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted on Tuesday.

The Philippines said on Monday that it was making arrangements for the repatriation of Filipinos still left in Kabul. Manila is "exploring all avenues of cooperation and [is] closely coordinating with governments and international partners to guarantee their immediate and safe passage," it said in a statement.

On Sunday night, 32 Filipinos were evacuated to Doha, from where they will be brought back to the Philippines, while another group of 19 people was also set to leave the Afghan capital, the statement said.

Taliban members are seen near Hamid Karzai International Airport as thousands of Afghans rush to flee the Afghan capital of Kabul, Afghanistan, on Aug. 16.   © Getty Images

Vietnam helped one of its citizens working for a United Nations agency to evacuate Afghanistan earlier this month, according to official media. It has reported that there are no more of its citizens there, but directed the embassy in Pakistan to monitor the situation and offer help if the need arises.

Separately, South Korea has completed the evacuation of all its nationals from Afghanistan. A plane carrying the last four of its citizens, including the country's ambassador, departed from Kabul airport on Tuesday morning and landed in a third country in the Middle East, Yonhap news agency quoted the Foreign Ministry spokesperson Choi Young-sam as saying.

The four -- three embassy staff and a civilian -- boarded a plane Monday night but the flight could not take off until this morning as thousands of Afghans crowded the runway in a desperate attempt to flee, it said.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Embassy in Kabul "is still operating normally," the country's foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a media briefing in Beijing on Monday.

"The Chinese ambassador and embassy staff are fulfilling their duties," she said, adding that most of the Chinese nationals in Afghanistan had already returned to China. "For those few people who chose to stay, the embassy is in close contact with them. They are all safe and sound so far."

Cliff Venzon and Lien Hoang contributed to this report

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