- Pentagon spokesperson said on twitter the explosion at Kabul airport “was the result of a complex attack which left a number of American and civilian victims”.
Two suicide bombers and gunmen attacked crowds of Afghans flocking to Kabul airport on Thursday, turning a scene of despair into a scene of horror at the end of an airlift for those fleeing the takeover of the Taliban. At least 13 people have been killed and dozens injured, Russian officials and aid workers said.Twelve US servicemen were killed in the attacks, including 11 Marines and a Navy medic, according to two US officials. Officials say a number of US soldiers have been injured. They warned, however, that the numbers could rise.
It was not clear whether American deaths were included in the Russian toll.
The Department of National Defense has confirmed that all members of the Canadian Armed Forces are safe and sound.
“The situation on the ground remains dangerous and CAF personnel are taking all appropriate personal safety measures,” said a press release from DND.
It is not clear if other Canadian citizens or people with ties to Canada were affected.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg condemned the deadly explosions outside Hamid Karzai International Airport as a “horrific terrorist attack” which targeted desperate people trying to leave the country and the efforts of the alliance to evacuate them from Afghanistan.
I strongly condemn the horrific terrorist attack outside the airport in #Acceptance. My thoughts are with all those affected and their loved ones. Our priority remains to evacuate as many people as possible to safety as quickly as possible.
The bombs exploded outside the airport, where large crowds of people trying to flee Afghanistan gathered as they waited for flights to leave the country. Western countries had warned earlier today of a possible attack there in the final days of a massive airlift.
Suspicion of an attack targeting the crowds would likely fall on the Islamic State group and not on the Taliban, who were deployed at the gates of the airport in an attempt to control the mass of the population.
Adam Khan, an Afghan waiting outside the airport, said the explosion occurred in a crowd of people waiting to enter. Khan, who stood about 30 meters from the explosion, said several people appeared to have been killed or injured, some of whom lost body parts.
Pentagon officials are expected to provide an update later on Thursday, but spokesman John Kirby said on Twitter that the explosion at Abbey Gate at the airport “was the result of a complex attack that caused quite a stir. number of American and civilian victims ”.
“We can also confirm at least one other explosion at or near the Baron Hotel, a short distance from Abbey Gate. We will continue to update. Many people, including Afghans, British and Americans, have been invited to gather at the hotel in recent days before heading to the airport for evacuation.
One of the bombers struck people standing up to their knees in a sewage channel under the scorching sun, throwing bodies into the foul water. Those who, moments earlier, had hoped to catch the plane could be seen transporting the injured to ambulances in a daze, their own clothes dark with blood.
Western officials had warned of a major attack, urging people to leave the airport, but this advice has gone largely ignored by Afghans desperate to flee the country in the final days of a state-led evacuation. United before the United States officially ended its 20-year presence. August 31.
Over the past week, the airport has witnessed some of the most striking images of the chaotic end of America’s longest war and the Taliban takeover, as flight after flight has taken flight. flew by carrying those who fear a brutal return to the militants’ regime. .
Already, some countries have halted their evacuations and started withdrawing their troops and diplomats, marking the beginning of the end of one of the largest airlifts in history. The Taliban have so far honored their pledge not to attack Western forces during the evacuation, but insist foreign troops must be out before the self-imposed August 31 deadline set by the United States. .
Overnight, warnings emerged from Western capitals of a threat from the Islamic State-affiliated group of Afghanistan, which likely saw its ranks swell with the release of prisoners by the Taliban during the their blitz across the country.
Acting US Ambassador to Kabul Ross Wilson said in an interview with ABC News Thursday that the overnight security threat at Kabul airport was “clearly seen as credible, imminent, compelling.”
Wilson also said there were still “safe ways” for Americans to reach the airport, but “there will undoubtedly be” Afghans who have worked with or for the United States in Afghanistan who cannot. exit before the end of the evacuation.
Earlier Thursday, the Taliban sprayed a water cannon on people gathered at an airport gate in an attempt to drive off the crowds, as tear gas canisters were thrown elsewhere. While some fled, others simply sat on the ground, covered their faces and waited in the noxious fumes.
“We have no chance except to escape”
Nadia Sadat, a 27-year-old Afghan woman, carried her two-year-old daughter with her outside the airport. She and her husband, who had worked with coalition forces, missed a call from a number they believed to be the US State Department and attempted to enter the airport without success. Her husband had rushed into the crowd to try to get them in.
“We have to find a way to evacuate because our lives are in danger,” Sadat said. “My husband has received several threatening messages from unknown sources. We have no other chance but to escape. “
Gunfire then echoed in the area as Sadat waited. “There is anarchy because of the huge crowds,” she said, blaming the United States for the chaos.
Aman Karimi, 50, escorted her daughter and her family to the airport, fearing the Taliban would target her because of her husband’s work with NATO.
“The Taliban have already started looking for those who have worked with NATO,” he said. “They look for them house by house at night. “
Many Afghans share these fears. The die-hard Islamic group has regained control of the country almost 20 years after being ousted in a US-led invasion following the September 11 terrorist attacks, orchestrated by al-Qaeda as it was sheltered by the group.
ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan, ISIS-K, was born out of disgruntled Taliban operatives who take an even more extreme view of Islam. Sunni extremists have carried out a series of brutal attacks, mainly targeting Afghanistan’s Shia Muslim minority, including a 2020 assault on a maternity hospital in Kabul in which they killed women and infants.
The Taliban fought ISIS militants in Afghanistan, but ISIS fighters were likely released from prisons along with other detainees during the Taliban’s rapid advance. Extremists may have seized heavy weapons and equipment left behind by Afghan troops.
Amid the warnings and the impending U.S. withdrawal, Canada halted its evacuations and European countries halted or prepared to shut down their own operations.
CBC’s Ashley Burke brings you the latest on Canada’s efforts in Afghanistan, and what officials had to say about the end of the evacuation effort:
French Prime Minister Jean Castex told RTL radio that his country’s efforts would stop on Friday evening. Danish Defense Minister Trine Bramsen bluntly warned: “It is no longer safe to enter or leave Kabul.
Denmark’s last flight has already left, and Poland and Belgium have also announced the end of their evacuations. The Dutch government said the United States told it to leave on Thursday.
But Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said some planes would continue to fly.
“The evacuation operations in Kabul will not end in 36 hours. We will continue to evacuate as many people as possible until the end of the mission, ”he said in a tweet on Thursday, shortly before the explosion was reported.
The Taliban have said they will allow Afghans to leave via commercial flights after the deadline next week, but it is still unclear which airlines would return to an airport controlled by the militants. Turkish presidency spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said talks were underway between his country and the Taliban to allow Turkish civilian experts to help manage the facility.
The Taliban vowed to bring Afghanistan back to safety and vowed they would not seek revenge on those who opposed it or reverse human rights progress. But many Afghans are skeptical.