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Opinion: 'They already looking for me': An Afghan interpreter on the last 24 hours

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On Monday, I feared the worst.

a green truck parked in front of a car: A truck drives by outside the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 16, 2021. © Omid Mahmoodi, handout for USA TODAY A truck drives by outside the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 16, 2021.

I had messaged Omid Mahmoodi, who worked as an interpreter and cultural adviser for the U.S. military for three years during the war.

We had been keeping in touch on-and-off since I first spoke with him in May about his effort to secure a U.S. visa through a special program for Afghans who served alongside American troops during the war.

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At that time, he said he feared the Taliban would "slaughter" him and others associated with the American-led war.

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Mahmoodi usually responded quickly. I kept checking back for the double check marks next to my message, to see if he had at least read it.

Nothing for three hours.

Then suddenly, my phone pinged.

"Hello, hope you're fine," he wrote. "I went to Kabul airport."

He sent videos of a throng of people heading to the airport gate. Inside, American troops were scrambling to secure the compound to evacuate American citizens and Afghan allies.


Video: U.S.-bound airlift begins for Afghan interpreters (Reuters)

"Okay are you inside?" I responded. "If so, you will have a chance of leaving."

Another video of people trying to scale the wall after the Taliban blocked the entrance.

And then a photo of two listless bodies in the street.

"People got killed by the Taliban," he wrote. "Shot."

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"But you're inside right? So you may get out tomorrow or the next day."

"No," he responded. He said the Taliban made those who had gotten into the compound leave. He had been let in by a U.S. Marine, he said.

"There is a lot of people with their family and kids. Taliban beating them," he said.

"So where are you? Outside?" I write.

"I am back to my location," he wrote. He said I should publish the videos and was free to use his name – again.

"You're not put me in trouble. They already seen all my interview," he said. "I am not scared. They already looking for me."

I don't know what to say in response. "I'm sorry" doesn't really cut it right now, and I'd already said that to him on Sunday. To which he responded: "It's ok."

But it's not.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'They already looking for me': An Afghan interpreter on the last 24 hours

Italians come out to demand support for Afghan women .
ROME (AP) — Thousands of people demonstrated in cities across Italy on Saturday to support Afghan women and demand continued international pressure on the country’s Taliban leaders to let women participate in the educational and political life of the country. Among the groups organizing the protests were members of the Pangea Foundation, which had worked for 20 years on economic development projects for Afghan women before finding itself helping to evacuate them when the Taliban took over. At the protest Saturday, Pangea supporters had a P drawn on their hand.

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