Afghanistan on the brink of Taliban takeover

The Taliban reached the outskirts of the capital Kabul earlier on Sunday, but said fighters were now being sent into the city.

People have sought safety from the fighting in Kabul but there have been scenes of panic there.

The Taliban have taken control of almost the entire country now that US-led forces have all but withdrawn.

Western countries have also been scrambling to evacuate their citizens. The US sent military helicopters to transport staff from the heavily fortified embassy compound in Kabul to the airport.

Officials said talks had taken place to ensure a peaceful transition and a Taliban spokesman told the there would be "no revenge" on Afghans.

The US Embassy later said there were reports of gunfire at Kabul's airport. It warned US citizens in the area to take shelter as "the security situation... is changing quickly".

It is almost 20 years since the Islamist group was ousted by a US-led military coalition. They have been seizing territory across the country in an advance that began months ago but accelerated in the space of days.

US President Joe Biden has defended the US withdrawal, saying he could not justify an "endless American presence in the middle of another country's civil conflict".

There is panic in Kabul, where some residents have been trying to reach the airport to leave the country. Cars have been abandoned and people have opted to walk because of traffic jams.

One 22-year-old student told the that he had walked more than five hours to reach the airport.

"My feet hurt, they have blisters and I'm finding it difficult to stand," he said.

"It was like a military town - people were in traditional clothes, but they had weapons and were firing in the air. It reminded me of the jihad that I heard of from my parents."

Residents have also been rushing to withdraw cash from ATMs, and queuing to get travel documents at the passport office and at foreign visa centres.

Farzana Kocha, an MP in Kabul, told the BBC that people did not know what to do as Taliban militants closed in on the city.