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Plane Carrying U.S.-Trained Afghan Pilots Leaves Tajikistan


The pilots and other Afghan refugees are waited at the airport in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, for a flight organized by the U.S. government.

An airplane carrying U.S.-trained Afghan pilots and other Afghan refugees has taken off from an airport in Tajikistan's capital, Dushanbe.

Earlier in the day, the U.S. Embassy to Tajikistan confirmed that 191 Afghan evacuees, including 143 pilots, were preparing to depart the Central Asian country to be relocated to the United States after nearly three months of detention.

The group will be taken to a third country for processing before being granted immigration rights to the United States, a U.S. Embassy representative told RFE/RL. The flight, organized by the U.S. government, left Dushanbe at 12.30 a.m. local time on November 10.

There are two women among the pilots, one of whom is pregnant.

"The U.S. Embassy is working to expedite their departure from Tajikistan," an embassy spokesperson said earlier.

The Afghan Air Force pilots fled to Tajikistan in military planes when the Taliban seized power in Kabul in mid-August, only to be detained at a sanatorium on the outskirts of Dushanbe.

The English-speaking pilots trained by the U.S. Air Force have been waiting for their documents to be processed to eventually be relocated in the United States.

RFE/RL reported in October that the Taliban has pressured some of the pilots to return to Afghanistan by threatening to kill their relatives.

The group was the last one of U.S.-trained pilots who fled abroad and were expecting to be extricated.

In September, a U.S.-brokered deal allowed a larger group of Afghan pilots and other military personnel to be flown out of Uzbekistan.