Air Force Says Commercial Evacuation Flight From Kabul Was Nearly Hijacked

By Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Reporter
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist and currently a news reporter at The Epoch Times. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.
October 14, 2021 Updated: October 14, 2021

The United States Air Force (USAF) on Tuesday said that a commercial flight from Kabul’s international airport was nearly hijacked during evacuation efforts that followed the Taliban takeover.

Lt. Col. Kristen Duncan, a public affairs officer for the 23rd Wing, wrote in a statement on the Air Force’s website that several people aboard a commercial flight leaving Hamid Karzai International airport “intended” on hijacking the aircraft.

The statement said officials received an intelligence tip that five individuals “intended to hijack the aircraft” during evacuation efforts late August.

“Our team worked to get them clear of the NATO ramp, relocated to the north side away from friendly forces, then ultimately onto the south side where the situation was handled,” she wrote, quoting Lt. Col. Brian Desautels, 71st Rescue Squadron and Personnel Recovery Task Force commander.

The USAF statement didn’t elaborate on when the alleged incident took place, on how the situation was dealt with, or on what happened to the five individuals. The Epoch Times has contacted USAF for additional comment.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Central Command, which led evacuation efforts from Afghanistan, pushed back against the statement from the Air Force. Central Command spokeswoman Lt. Josie Lynne Lenny told CNN on Thursday that they are “unaware” of an attempted hijacking.

“I am unaware of any attempt to hijack a plane at Hamid Karzai International airport,” said Lenny.

Lenny told the news outlet that during the Afghanistan evacuation mission, an intel tip “indicated the possibility of a plot to highjack a particular flight that was preparing to depart the airfield.”

“Ground traffic controllers diverted the plane to a safe location on the airfield where security forces boarded the plane and determined that there was no active attempt to hijack the aircraft,” the spokeswoman added.

Evacuation efforts followed the takeover of Kabul by the Taliban terrorist group on Aug. 15, with U.S. troops withdrawing from Afghanistan by President Joe Biden’s self-imposed Aug. 31 deadline. The withdrawal concluded two decades of U.S. involvement in the country following the Sept. 11 terror attacks which killed nearly 3,000 people and wounded thousands more.

Despite a ramped up evacuation mission, as many as 200 Americans were left behind by that date, according to the administration. A senior State Department official said on Sept. 27 that some 100 American citizens and legal permanent residents who wish to evacuate Afghanistan still remain in the country.

Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist and currently a news reporter at The Epoch Times. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.