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First Belgian plane leaves to join Kabul airlift

The first of four Belgian military planes set off on Tuesday to join the international operation to rescue foreign citizens and their Afghan colleagues from Kabul.

Defence Minister Ludivine Dedonder said the first of the aircraft had taken off at 4:00 pm (1400 GMT) from Melsbroek air base bound for a stopover in the Pakistani capital Islamabad.

The first flight, a Dassault Falcon 7X business jet, was carrying a 15-strong “NEO team”, specialising in the evacuation of non-combattants in crises.

It was to be followed within hours by two C-130 and one A400M military transport planes, each capable of carrying 60 and 100 people respectively.

The planes will operate an air bridge between the airport in Kabul, which has been secured by US troops since the city fell to Taliban rebels, and Islamabad.

Belgium has vowed to evacuate 100 Belgians and Afghans, including some who worked for Belgian organisations. Its operation will also be used to fly out a number of staff and employees of the EU diplomatic mission in Kabul.