Shepparton News

Australian­s rescued from Taliban-controlled Kabul

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CANBERRA: More Australian­s and Afghan visa-holders have been extracted from Taliban-controlled Kabul as a dangerous rescue operation continues.

A RAAF transport plane yesterday lifted 76 Australian citizens and Afghans with protection visas out of the Afghan capital to a base in the United Arab Emirates.

The f light also dropped a further 40 Australian Defence Force personnel and provisions into Kabul to help with the rescue mission.

The latest evacuation adds to 26 people extracted from Kabul during the first flight.

A flight to Perth with the first group of Australian­s and Afghan visa-holders was expected to leave the UAE last night.

The Western Australian Government will put quarantine places aside for the arrivals in addition to weekly passenger caps.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said there were only narrow windows to get people out.

‘‘We are moving urgently, safely, because we are taking nothing for granted,’’ he said yesterday.

‘‘The weather is closing in and that’s going to present some challenges over the next few days, but equally the situation can always turn, and so we are moving as quickly as we can.’’

Taliban officials say 12 people have died from gunshots and stampedes at the airport since Sunday.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Australia was working to establish an airport staging area to help people granted access to travel to Australia.

The government has defended offering 3000 humanitari­an places to Afghans f leeing the Taliban despite other nations pledging intakes more than six times that figure.

Immigratio­n Minister Alex Hawke expects the initial commitment could rise to 5000 as the situation unfolds in Afghanista­n.

‘‘What we do is announce figures that we believe we’re actually going to place and then we increase them,’’ he said.

World Vision is among groups calling on Australia to create an additional 20,000 humanitari­an visas for people fleeing Afghanista­n.

More than 300 organisati­ons have signed an open letter saying the government has a moral duty to the Afghan people.

Governor-General David Hurley, a former senior army officer, urged Australian­s who served in Afghanista­n to be proud of their service.

‘‘You did as your nation asked,’’ he said.

‘‘You served diligently in very difficult circumstan­ces. Be confident and assured that your efforts are valued and respected here at home.’’

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