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Like a Hollywood flick: How Ghani fled and where he is

Cash stuffed helicopter, wandering planes, changing whereabouts

SAMAA | - Posted: Aug 16, 2021 | Last Updated: 5 months ago
Posted: Aug 16, 2021 | Last Updated: 5 months ago

Afghan men stand next to the a torn poster of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at the Kabul airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021. Photo: AFP

The escape of the ousted Afghan president from Kabul has all the ingredients of a Hollywood action flick. It involves a helicopter and four cars stuffed with money, two aircraft that were not allowed to land in a friendly country, and mystery surrounding the new whereabouts of Ashraf Ghani. This piece answers the key questions of how Ghani fled Kabul and where he is now.

Less than one month ago during a conference in Tashkent, Ghani and Prime Minister Imran khan almost came to blows – figuratively. It ended the goodwill between the two leaders if there were any, and soon afterwards speaking to international media correspondents in Islamabad, Khan plainly said that the Taliban would not talk to Kabul administration as long as Ashraf Ghani was at the helm of affairs.

Ghani, however, was unrelenting. On Saturday when the Taliban laid just 40km from Kabul, he appeared on TV and vowed to fight back. It was soon revealed that Ghani had appeared in a recorded video, not a live broadcast.

The next day when the Taliban advanced towards Kabul and entered the city – though without moving further in as they had been instructed – Ghani fled.

Viral video of departure

A video going viral through Afghan social media accounts shows Ghani boarding a jet operated by Kam Air, one of Afghanistan’s private airlines.

He is accompanied by suited men. One of them carries two hand hangs – stuffed and rather heavy. As this person steps on the aircraft stairs, another man standing nearby pulls him back – with bloated bags still in his hands.

Ghani and two others get to the top, without inquiring about the bags or the person. Afghan president curtly waves and quickly disappears into the body of the aircraft.

However, the video does not corroborate other evidence of Ghani’s escape. It’s authenticity should be questioned.

Ghani at tarmac
A grab from a viral social media video shows Ghani on the tarmac at what looks like Kabul airport.

If one is to believe aviation experts’ chatter, Ghani left, not in a Kam Air jet, but in a Cessna 208 operated by Afghan Air Force (AAF).

AAF operates, or used to operate, multiple Cessna 208s. Ousted Afghan officials have reportedly used many of them to flee the country on Sunday.

Ghani and other leaders have used the same aircraft type in the past to travel to Herat in the west, Mazar-i-Sharif in the north and other cities.

Boarding a Cessna 208 does not require a stair truck.

The aircraft Ghani boarded had an ironic callsign: FOLAD43. Folad is a Persian word which means (in many regional languages including Urdu) “steel”. Folad represents strength and bravery.

A president fleeing his country uses the callsign “folad” – ironic?.

Tajikistan turns away Ghani’s plane

Flight data provided by shows that the aircraft with callsign FOLAD43 headed to Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe. Data shows that around 1520 GMT (8:20 PM PKT) FOLAD43 was circling near Dushanbe after being not allowed to land.

Flight data reports say there was another Cessna 208s in tow. It carried no formal callsign, hence, it was assigned C208. Both the aircraft were not allowed to land and continued to circle.

Finally, at 1627 GMT (9:27 PKT) FOLAD43 was allowed to land at Bokhtar International Airport, also known as Kurgan Tyube Qurghonteppa airport. Bokhtar is a city in southwest Tajikistan. It has an international airport.

Tajik officials, however, denied that Ghani was in Tajikistan. “The plane with Ashraf Ghani has not entered the air space of Tajikistan and has not landed on the territory of the country,” the Foreign Ministry said.

Ghani landed in Oman

Cessena 208
A cessna 208 operated by Iraqi Air Force. Ashraf Ghani used a similar aircraft to flee Afghanistan. (Wikimedia Commons)

The statement by Tajikistan foreign ministry compounded the mystery surrounding Ghani’s whereabouts.

Indian media reported on Monday that Ashraf Ghani eventually arrived in the Gulf state of Oman. India Today said Ghani is likely to proceed to the United States. It said former National Security Advisor Mohib was also with him.

Indian newspapers and TV channels said Ghani was not allowed to land in Tajikistan.

There is a possibility that his aircraft refuelled at Bokhtar airport and resumed its journey, eventually landing in Oman.

Russian news agency RIA Novosti, too, reported that Ghani was in the Sultanate of Oman.

Helicopter full of cash

The Russian embassy in Kabul has claimed that Ghani fled with tons of money, RIA Novosti said in another report.

Citing eyewitnesses the embassy said Ghani fled with four cars full of money and a helicopter which had also been stuffed with cash. It said Ghani took so much cash that some money would not fit and had to be left lying on the tarmac.

In Kabul, Ghani’s former aides have been criticizing him for playing with the blood of the people and committing treason, says Tolo News.

Angry people tore down Ashraf Ghani’s posters near Kabul airport on Monday.

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Where is Ashraf Ghani, Ghani Whereabouts, FOLAD43
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