Their 2-week long nightmare finally ends
The evacuation process of the six Bangladeshi engineers from Kabul could only be described as a nightmare in which they saw horrific events, including bomb blasts and killings.
On August 26, they were at the Kabul International Airport gate just half an hour before the bombs went off there.
"We were approaching the gate, but were alerted to move away by our company security. Around half an hour after leaving the gate, the bombs exploded," said Razib Bin Islam, one of the six engineers who works for Afghan Wireless Communication Company, a US-Afghan joint venture mobile carrier.
He and five others -- Md Kamruzzaman, Mohammad Nazrul Islam, Imran Hossain, Abu Zafar Md Masud Karim and Shek Farid Uddin -- returned home midnight Tuesday after more than two weeks of desperate attempts to come home.
Foreigners and thousands of Afghans were fleeing the South Asian country with the Taliban's seizing of control before the final withdrawal of the US and other Nato forces by August 31.
Razib said they all had decided to return home as the Western forces were withdrawing and that formation of a new government was likely, but it was beyond imagination that the Taliban would take control so fast.
They had flights on August 16, but with the Taliban's seizing control of Kabul the day before, the flights were cancelled, leaving them in trouble because no commercial flights were available.
"We were secure in our company residences in Kabul, but as all the foreigners were leaving, we were trying to get into the airport," he told this correspondent at his Dhaka home yesterday.
They, along with nine other Bangladeshis, made attempts to enter the airport five times but failed as they were not allowed in on security grounds.
After avoiding the bomb blasts on August 26 that killed about 100 people, including 13 US troops, they took shelter in a place that is about eight minutes' drive from the airport. The Bangladeshis and about 150 Afghan students of Asian University for Women (AUW) in Chattogram stayed in seven buses on the streets for nearly 40 hours from noon of August 25.
"There was panic indeed. Our relatives were all worried. We were getting calls from journalists. Bombs were going off and people were killed. There were security concerns," he said.
He said Foreign Ministry Secretary [East] Mashfee Binte Shams and Bangladesh Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Zahangir Alam, regularly called them, asking what they could do.
Razib, who has been working in Afghanistan for 14 years, said they were desperately trying to enter the airport in anyway before August 30 as the US was scheduled to complete its troop withdrawal by August 31.
He added that if they could not leave Kabul by that time, they feared of getting stranded there for a long time.
"With frantic efforts, finally six of us entered the airport braving huge crowds and requested the US forces to put us on any flight and evacuate us in anywhere outside Afghanistan," said Razib.
In a few hours, they were put onboard a flight of the US to Doha. With instructions from the foreign ministry in Dhaka, the Bangladesh embassy in Qatar called them and arranged Covid tests and accommodation for two nights there through the Qatar government.
During their stay in Doha, they learnt that six other Bangladeshis and 150 Afghan students of AUW also flew to Riyadh later that day by another US special flight.
Razib said while in Doha, their company arranged tickets and they flew to Dubai by an Emirates flight and flew to Dhaka on Tuesday night.
"What has happened to us in the last two weeks was just nightmare. It's now over. The worries of our families, friends and the countrymen are also over," he said.
Razib thanked Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, all the government officials in Dhaka, Uzbekistan and Qatar, and journalists for their help in the times of trouble.
"I would say they all made 100 percent efforts to help us," he said.