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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the final New Zealand Defence Force evacuation flight from Afghanistan landed back in the United Arab Emirates last night, before the bomb attacks killing at least 12 US soldiers and 60 Afghans at Hamid Karzai International Airport.

One hundred people, including New Zealanders and Australians, were on the flight. It is not yet clear how many of those people are destined for New Zealand.

So far, 276 New Zealand nationals and permanent residents, their families, and other visa holders have been evacuated.

There were no New Zealand Defence Force personnel in Kabul and no New Zealand evacuees at the airport at the time of the explosions.

Ardern described the attacks as “appalling” and said the country’s thoughts were with all of those in Afghanistan who had been killed or injured.

“We strongly condemn what is a despicable attack on many innocent families and individuals who were simply seeking safety from the incredibly difficult and fragile situation in Afghanistan,” she said in a statement.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade remained in close contact with New Zealand citizens and permanent residents in Afghanistan who had previously registered on SafeTravel or otherwise made contact.

‘High threat of terrorist attack’
Yesterday, all those known to have been in Afghanistan were advised by MFAT of the “ongoing and very high threat of terrorist attack” and warned not to go to Hamid Karzai International Airport and to leave the airport if they were nearby.

At this stage, there have been no requests for assistance from New Zealanders or other visa holders in Afghanistan related to the explosion. MFAT are trying to contact all those known to be in the region.

Ardern said the situation at Kabul’s airport had been so difficult for both people trying to get out, and those undertaking the evacuations that there would be no more flights into the city.

Over the course of the mission, the NZDF aircraft was able to undertake three flights out of Kabul and had successfully brought out hundreds of evacuees who are destined for both New Zealand and Australia.

Australia also brought out a number of those destined for New Zealand.

Defence Minister Peeni Henare said as well as those who have already arrived in the country, more people eligible for relocation are in transit. Some are being processed at bases outside Afghanistan, so it is still too early to know the total numbers of people who will be returned to Aotearoa, he said.

Ardern said those who remained were in an incredibly difficult position.

Afghanistan situation “complex, fragile”
“The situation in Afghanistan is incredibly complex and fragile and continues to change rapidly. Our next job is to consider what can be done for those who remain in Afghanistan still. That will not be a quick or easy task,” she said.

She also praised those Defence Force personnel who undertook the mission.

“I want to thank our Defence Force personnel who have worked hard to bring those in need home, by establishing a presence on the ground both at the airport in Kabul, and in the United Arab Emirates alongside other government agencies.”

She also thanked New Zealand’s partners, especially Australia, the US and the United Arab Emirates.

It has not yet been confirmed when NZDF personnel and the C-130 aircraft will arrive back in New Zealand.

Fiji evacuations
ABC’s Pacific Beat reports that five Fijian workers have been evacuated from Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of the country, three being flown to Kazhakstan.

One Fiji security contractor said a humanitarian crisis is looming with major challenges ahead for the country.

It is believed about five others had chosen to stay in Afghanistan for the time being.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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