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US evacuates around 500 Afghans from Uzbekistan

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The United States has said it evacuated nearly 500 “military and civilian” Afghans from Uzbekistan, while the ex-Soviet country declared there were now no Afghan refugees on its territory.

The days leading up to the Taliban’s capture of Kabul caused scenes of chaos in Afghanistan’s Central Asian neighbors Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, as soldiers loyal to the crumbling government fled over state borders in military aircraft.

Uzbekistan had mostly withheld comment on the number and status of the refugees as it looked to cultivate ties with the Taliban next door.

But a US embassy spokesman has said that on Tuesday it had evacuated 494 “military and civilian” Afghans out of Uzbekistan’s southern Termez airport with the Uzbek government’s help.

“The evacuation was completed September 12-13,” the spokesman confirmed.

All Afghan refugees have left the territory of Uzbekistan. A staffer at Afghanistan’s embassy told AFP last month that up to 1,500 Afghans might have crossed into Uzbekistan illegally after the Taliban secured control of the northern stronghold Mazar-i-Sharif in mid-August and began beating a path towards Kabul.

In a rare statement on the refugees in August, Uzbekistan said it had returned 150 people to Afghanistan at their own request and following talks with the Taliban to guarantee their safety.

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