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Germany sending military planes to Afghanistan for evacuation

Military aircraft will leave Germany for Kabul on Sunday night to evacuate Germans and Afghan support staff after Taliban insurgents entered the Afghan capital.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas speaks at a press conference concerning Afghanistan in Berlin

Germany is doubling down on efforts to evacuate diplomatic staff, Heiko Maas said

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that Bundeswehr planes are being deployed to help with evacuation efforts in Kabul.

In a brief statement to reporters on Sunday evening, Maas said those who are being evacuated will be brought to a neighboring country and then will use civilian passenger planes to fly them back to Germany.

Some German staff will be flown out already on Sunday night, he said.

His comments follow the Taliban's advance on the Afghan capital in the previous few hours, as it prepares to retake control of the country.

Maas said that the security of the German embassy staff and local partners "is paramount."

Germany closed its embassy in Kabul earlier on Sunday, moving its staff to a location at Kabul airport, where Maas said the staff "are safe."

"A core team of the embassy will stay in Kabul at the airport to continue work there and support further evacuations," he added.

"It is now an absolute priority that we bring those to be protected safely to Germany," German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said regarding the evacuation efforts.

European Council President Charles Michel also said Sunday that the security of EU personnel and citizens in Afghanistan is "priority in the short term."

Watch video 00:18

Afghan President Ghani has left country, says top official Abdullah

Commercial flights grounded

NATO and US military officials said commercial flights in and out of Kabul airport were grounded from Sunday night but that military flights, including evacuation flights, would continue.

The grounding followed reports of gunfire at the airport. The US Embassy warned its citizens to "shelter in place."

The US military also evacuated the acting US ambassador to the Kabul airport, The Associated Press reported.

At the end of June, Germany completed its pull out of its troops deployed in Afghanistan, ending its part in NATO operations in the country after nearly two decades. 

Its contingent of 150,000 people who were stationed in the country over the years, made it the second biggest contributor of NATO troops there, after the US.

Bundestag member Roderich Kiesewetter, who sits on the foreign affairs committee, told DW that the Taliban's rapid advances in Afghanistan mark an "end of an era."

Kiesewetter laid blame on the Trump administration for its original decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and slammed corruption in the Afghan government, which had received both military and financial support from western countries.

rs, wd/mm (dpa, Reuters)