There was no immediate official comment on the incident.

An Italian journalist told Sky TG 24 that she had been aboard the plane along with 98 Afghan civilians when it appeared to be targeted by machine gun fire.

"The pilot reacted promptly and implemented manoeuvres to avoid being hit within minutes of taking off from Kabul. There was a bit of panic," said the journalist.

Italy is one of a number of countries looking to evacuate thousands of foreigners and Afghans following the collapse of a Western-backed government in Kabul and the arrival of Taliban forces into the city.

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