About 150 Indian citizens were picked up by the Taliban from outside the gates of Kabul airport this morning, according to a top government source who also said they were not in immediate danger.
The Indian nationals were questioned at a nearby police station, the source said.
Back-channel talks are underway to secure the release of all Indian citizens, the source added.
Earlier local news outlets in Kabul reported that the Taliban had kidnapped more than 150 people, including Indians. The Taliban rejected that claim, according to a tweet by Sharif Hassan, a Kabul-based reporter for NewsMadura, who quoted a spokesman for the group.
This comes hours after an Indian Air Force transport plane managed to evacuate about 85 Indians from Kabul; the plane has landed safely in Tajikistan, sources said, adding that a second plane is on standby in India for further evacuations.
Sources had said this morning that the government is trying to bring as many Indians as possible to the Kabul airport to keep them safe while it works out evacuation logistics.
India has evacuated all embassy personnel, but an estimated 1,000 civilians remain in various cities in the war-torn country, and determining their location and condition is proving challenging, an interior ministry official had said, as they not all had registered with the embassy.
Among them are about 200 Sikhs and Hindus who have taken refuge at a gurudwara in Kabul.
Late Wednesday, a Taliban spokesman – who appeared to have a more moderate image – released a video of the gurudwara’s head saying he was assured of security.
Separately, the Taliban’s political bureau had also sent messages to Delhi urging the evacuation of diplomats and embassy personnel, saying that India had nothing to fear for their safety.
However, days before those “outreach” reports, sources said Taliban forces had penetrated at least two of India’s consulates, “searched” offices and took documents and parked vehicles.
A senior official told NewsMadura “we expected this…”
Foreign Minister S Jaishankar said this week that the government is monitoring the situation in Kabul and Afghanistan “very carefully”, but that the immediate focus is on evacuating all civilians safely.
Asked about how India sees and handles the Taliban leadership, he said it is still “early days”, without directly commenting on whether or not India was in contact with the Taliban.
The Taliban took effective control of Afghanistan on Sunday after President Ashraf Ghani fled and the group entered the capital Kabul unopposed.
This was after a dizzyingly rapid flight from major cities – with relatively little bloodshed – after two decades of war that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.
The group, feared two decades ago by its ruthless and oppressive government, has tried to present a more moderate one by, for example, claiming that women will have rights, including education and work, and that the media will be independent and free.
But the violent response to protests – several were killed after Taliban fighters opened fire – and news that a female Afghan journalist is not allowed to work – suggest the “moderate” stance may not hold.