Afghan dad whose teen fell from US cargo plane blames ‘Americans’

As the first anniversary of the United States’ disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan approaches, a victim of one of its most horrific tragedies finally has a name.

Zabi Rezayee, 17, was one of the desperate civilians who clung to the landing gear and wheel covers of a US Air Force C-17 as it taxied down the runway at the international airport Kabul’s Hamid Karzai on August 16, 2021 – only to fall to his death on the tarmac, his father told The Sunday Times of London.

And Zabi’s brother, Zaki, 19, who joined his attempt to escape from the Taliban, has not been heard from since, Mohammed Rezayee said.

“I’m in pain, I’m angry, but I can’t do anything,” said Rezayee, 42. “I buried one son and I don’t even know if the other one is dead or alive.”

Horrifying cellphone videos of the young men who grabbed the giant cargo plane on takeoff and then fell helplessly to the ground as it soared, grab the globe as America’s war in Afghanistan drew to a chaotic and ignominious end.

At least five potential stowaways were killed, although the exact number was never determined. Of them landed in a residential area, splattering blood all over a homeowner’s roof. One has been found crashed into wheel arch of plane when he landed in Qatar.

In this image provided by the Ministry of Defence, a full flight of 265 people is evacuated from Kabul by British Armed Forces on August 21, 2021 in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Zabi Rezayee’s father, Mohammed, questioned why the US military left Hamid Karzai International Airport with evacuees “clinging to the plane”.
Ben Shread / MoD Crown Copyright via Getty Images

And two, including Zabi, crashed on the runway.

“I blame the pilot and I blame the Americans who were responsible for security at the airport,” Rezayee, a father of eight, said bitterly.

“Why did the pilot make the decision to take off when he knew people were clinging to the plane?” asked the distraught father. “I don’t think those hanging on really believed the plane would leave.”

A US Marine grabs a baby over a barbed wire fence during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 19, 2021.
A US Marine grabs a baby over a barbed wire fence during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 19, 2021.
Courtesy of Omar Haidiri/AFP via Getty Images

air force authorized aircraft crew of wrongdoing last month, Military.com reported.

The teenagers did not inform their parents of their intention to flee the country.

“I found out when I got a call from them at the airport,” their father said. “They looked excited, they said they were about to get on the plane. I was happy for them, happy that they were going somewhere safe because we were all so terrified of this what would happen here with the Taliban in charge.

The call only lasted a minute or two. “That was the last time I spoke to them,” he said.

A few minutes later, a stranger called Rezayee from Zabi’s phone.

“The guy on my son’s phone said they found Zabi’s body,” Rezayee says Vice News this week. He ran the four miles to the airport. “I found it in pieces.” Someone had draped a scarf over the teen’s bare, broken lower half.

But a search of Kabul’s hospitals and prisons for the father turned up no sign of Zaki, his eldest son.

“To date, I have never received any information about Zaki,” he said. His ‘tormented’ wife ‘says a little prayer every time she hears her phone ringing, desperately hoping it will be news’.

“It’s the not knowing that’s the hardest thing to deal with,” he said.

“They were nice boys. They liked to play football,” Rezayee recalls. “They were educated. Zaki could speak English. He used to teach his younger siblings a bit.

Taliban fighters atop vehicles displaying Taliban flags march along a road in celebration after the United States withdrew all of its troops from Afghanistan, in Kandahar on September 1, 2021 following the military takeover of the country by the Taliban.
Citizens have faced droughts and starvation conditions since the Taliban took power.
JAVED TANVEER/AFP via Getty Images

The family struggled as the Taliban’s grip sent half the country’s population near starvation. Without the help of his sons, Rezayee said, he would no longer be able to run his fruit and vegetable store.

“It’s like a waste of time being mad at my sons. I have to use that energy to find a way to provide for my remaining children,” he said.

“But I would give anything to find out what happened to Zaki.”

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