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Afghan refugee arrives in Utah after Taliban takeover

SALT LAKE CITY — Catholic Community Services of Utah welcomed an Afghan refugee Tuesday night.

Azim Kakaie is the first refugee to come to Utah since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and the U.S. military’s withdrawal.

He worked in air traffic control at the Kabul airport, collaborating with NATO and the U.S. military in the course of that job.

Kakaie was at work when the Taliban entered Kabul.

“We got a phone call that the Taliban is in downtown, and very soon that they are in the highways, driving, but there is no one to stop them,” he said.

He and other air traffic control employees were moved to a NATO-protected tower, where they were able to later transition to leaving the country.

Kakaie arrived in the United States on a special immigrant visa.

He’s the first of many Afghan refugees who will be resettled in the Salt Lake City area. The city is one of 19 the state department is targeting.

Kakaie’s wife and the rest of his family are still in Germany. He said they had a tougher process getting out of Afghanistan.

He shared video of his wife at a Taliban checkpoint, where he said she was tear-gassed and beaten. He said thanks to U-S soldiers, they were later able to get through an Afghan checkpoint.

“I cannot explain in words for them. They are the great heroes for me,” he said. Among those heroes: Staff. Sgt. Taylor Hoover of Utah and the 12 other U.S. service members who were killed in an ISIS attack.

Azim said his family got through that very same checkpoint just 13 minutes before the blast.

“I pray for them. They will be for my entire life in here. They saved my family’s life. They did a big sacrifice.”

Thank Hoover’s family is a big priority to him as he starts a new life in Utah.

“I really need to meet these family members in here. It’s one of my hope and dreams if I can meet them.”

Kakaie said while his immediate family is on their way to the U.S., he leaves behind extended family who are still in danger. He said he prays constantly for them, and the many others who could not make it out.

Catholic Community Services and International Rescue Committee will both work with the refugees who arrive in Utah. The agencies offer several services, including job placement, housing and interpretation.

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