On edge, 17 Bangladeshis await return
Amid the worsening situation in Afghanistan, where Taliban and Afghan forces have been fighting for the past few weeks in the wake of the US military's exit, foreigners and locals alike have been fleeing the country.
Their worries only deepened when the Taliban took control of Kabul on Sunday.
Razib Bin Islam, a Bangladeshi telecom engineer who has been working as the head of PBX and Contact Center Operations in Afghanistan for 14 years, was also desperate to leave Kabul for Dhaka.
The company arranged air tickets for a special Emirates flight for him and six other Bangladeshis and they were scheduled to fly out yesterday evening for Dhaka via Dubai.
However, amid the chaos created at the airport, which is being secured by US troops, at least three civilians died yesterday.
Some tried to cling to planes as those took off. Many foreigners and Afghans are stranded. The US and other countries are rushing to evacuate staffers and allies.
"Due to chaos in the airport, we got a notification that all flights including ours were cancelled for 71 hours due to security reasons. We are now with other foreigners in a company compound," Razib, one of at least 17 Bangladeshis stranded in Afghanistan, told The Daily Star yesterday evening.
He said they do not know yet when the next flight will leave and were seriously concerned over their travel back home.
"We are hearing sounds of gunfire from the compound," Razib said.
Another Bangladeshi, Md Kamruzzaman, an engineer who worked for BSS & RF Operations of Afghan Wireless, said, "We don't know what will happen. I have been working here for the last 18 years. We are used to experiencing pressure. But this time it's too critical. Our families are more concerned."
Other Bangladeshi engineers of the group include Md Imran Hossain, Mohammad Nazrul Islam from Feni, Abu Zafar Md Masud Karim of Thaukargaon, Shek Farid Uddin from Gaibandha, Muhammad Manirul Haque of Gazipur and Mohammed Sohrab.
Sohrab, who works for Grand Technologies Resources, had returned to Afghanistan after enjoying his leave in Bangladesh just one week ago.
"We didn't understand the situation. I am now seriously worried," he said.
Apart from these eight engineers, there are at least nine other Bangladeshis who are stranded in Afghanistan.
Bangladesh Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Zahangir Alam, who also has concurrent accreditation to Afghanistan, told the correspondent that six officials of Brac International are scheduled to fly back to Bangladesh on August 18. They contacted him, expressing their concern over their return.
"We have contact with all of them. They are all safe but eager to return home at the soonest. We told them we would help them in whatever ways we can," Zahangir Alam said.
Six of their Brac International's 12 Bangladeshi staffers in Afghanistan have already been evacuated.
Two other Bangladeshis who work for Afghanistan's sewerage department, and another -- Moin Al Mesbah, who was freed from jail recently -- are also trying to return home.
Zahangir said he has contacted the Afghan foreign ministry seeking assistance in tracing and repatriating Bangladeshi nationals. The Bangladesh embassy also opened two hotlines for Bangladeshis in Afghanistan.
Besides, he said, they could not trace two Bangladeshis -- Kawser Sultana and Obaidullah -- who were jailed about four years back allegedly for conducting illegal VoIP businesses.
The Taliban stormed a central jail and Moin Al Mesbah came out, but the two others were in another jail.
The ambassador said he did not know for certain the exact number of Bangladeshis living in Afghanistan, but a foreign ministry official said it would not be more than 30. They are all professionals and the respective companies were helping them return home.