ROME — Italy’s final evacuation flight of refugees from Afghanistan has landed at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport.
The Italian Air Force C-130J with 58 Afghan citizens aboard arrived Saturday morning, some 17 hours after it departed from the Kabul airport and after a planned stopover.
Also aboard were Italy’s consul and a NATO diplomat who had coordinated evacuations at the Kabul airport.
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said Italy was prepared to work with the United Nations and with countries bordering Afghanistan on what he described as the “more difficult phase.”
He said that consisted of efforts to evacuate other Afghan citizens who worked with Italy’s military during its 20-year presence in Afghanistan but weren’t able to get into Kabul airport in time for the evacuation flights. He didn’t say how many still were eligible for evacuation to Italy.
Rescuing those citizens “would give them the same possibility” of starting a new life outside their homeland, Di Maio said in a brief statement at Rome’s airport. He said the 4,890 Afghans evacuated by Italy’s air force in 87 flights was the highest number of any European Union nation.
Italy’s remaining soldiers left on a separate flight from Kabul on Friday night. That air force flight went to Kuwait and the troops are due back in Italy early next week.
MORE ON AFGHANISTAN:
— US presses on with evacuations despite fears of more attacks
— Taliban success in Afghanistan seen as boost for extremists
— Couple hopeful for children’s future after escape from Kabul
— Explainer: How dangerous is Afghanistan’s Islamic State?
— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/afghanistan
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
WASHINGTON — The United States military struck back at the Islamic State on Saturday, bombing an IS member in Afghanistan less than 48 hours after a devastating suicide bombing claimed by the group killed as many as 169 Afghans and 13 American service members at the Kabul airport.
U.S. Central Command said the U.S. conducted a drone strike against an Islamic State member in Nangahar believed to be involved in planning attacks against the U.S. in Kabul. The strike killed one individual, and spokesman Navy Capt. William Urban said they knew of no civilian casualties.
It wasn’t clear if that individual was involved specifically in the Thursday suicide blast outside the gates of the Kabul airport, where crowds of Afghans were desperately trying to get in as part of the ongoing evacuation from the country after the Taliban’s rapid takeover.
The airstrike fulfilled a vow President Joe Biden made to the nation Thursday when he said the perpetrators of the attack would not be able to hide. “We will hunt you down and make you pay,” he said. Pentagon leaders told reporters Friday that they were prepared for whatever retaliatory action the president ordered.
“We have options there right now,” said Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff.