Late on Sunday, even as the Taliban took control of Kabul and negotiations for a 'transfer' of power began, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country. In news that had shocked countless people, the leader of the country undertook a covert escape along with some top officials and (allegedly) a substantial amount of cash. But his exact whereabouts remain unknown.
While initial reports had suggested that the former leader was headed for Tajikistan, there appears to have been a change of plans. While Dushanbe has refuted the claims about Ghani's destination, others contend that his flight was denied landing space in Tajikistan.
Reports indicate that Ghani left the country with national security advisor Hamdullah Muhib and head of the administrative office of the President, Fazel Mahmood Fazli. And while he insisted that he was stepping down to to prevent bloodshed, the decision has not gone down well with other politicians and locals.
"Four cars were packed with money, and they tried to cram another bag of cash into the helicopter. Not all the cash managed to squeeze in, and some of the money was left lying on the airfield," a mission employee was quoted as saying by Russian official media reports.
While his exact location remains unknown, reports by Mehr News suggested that the fugitive President had travelled to Oman, with the intention of escaping to the US.
Following his abrupt departure, Ghani had taken to Facebook to say that from now on, the Taliban will be responsible for the "honour, wealth and preservation" of Afghanistan's people. The former President added that he was faced with a "hard choice" between the "armed Taliban" or "leaving the dear country that I dedicated my life to protecting the past 20 years".
Panic gripped the Afghan capital as people fear about a return to the Taliban's brutal rule and the threat of reprisal killings. Thousands of Afghans flooded the tarmac on Monday morning, at one point swarming around a departing US military plane as it taxied down the runway.
(With inputs from agencies)
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