2 suicide attacks outside Kabul airport; Russia announces 13 dead – .

2 suicide attacks outside Kabul airport; Russia announces 13 dead – .

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – 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 15 injured, according to Russian officials.

Several Marines were killed and a number of other U.S. service members were injured, a U.S. official said. It was not clear whether these deaths were included in the Russian toll.

One of the suicide bombers struck people standing up to their knees in a sewage canal 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.

A US official said the complex attack was carried out by the Islamic State group. ISIS’s affiliate in Afghanistan is far more radical than the Taliban, which recently took control of the country in a blitz and condemned the attack.

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.

At least 13 people died and 15 were injured, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry, which gave the first official tally of victims. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby also confirmed the blasts and said there were casualties, including among the military, but gave no figures. He said an explosion occurred near an airport entrance and another a short distance from a hotel.

An official, who requested anonymity to discuss ongoing military operations, said several Marines were killed. It was not clear if other US military troops were among the dead. US officials said information was still coming in and they were trying to determine the exact number of victims.

Even when the area was hit, evacuation flights continued to take off from Kabul airport.

Adam Khan was waiting nearby when he saw the first explosion outside what is known as the Abbey Gate. He said several people appeared to have been killed or injured, some of them maimed.

The second explosion took place at or near the Baron Hotel, where scores of people including Afghans, British and Americans have been invited to gather in recent days before heading to the airport for evacuation.

A former Royal Marine who runs an animal shelter in Afghanistan said he and his staff were trapped in the blast near the airport.

“All of a sudden we heard gunshots and our vehicle was targeted. If our driver had not turned around, he would have been shot in the head by a man with an AK-47, ”Paul“ Pen ”Farthing told the British news agency Press Association.

Farthing tries to get the staff of his charity Nowzad out of Afghanistan, as well as the rescued animals of the group.

He is one of the thousands who are trying to flee. 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 power of the militants. When the Taliban was last in power, they confined women largely to their homes and largely imposed draconian restrictions.

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 insisted that foreign troops must be out before the self-imposed US deadline of August 31 – and the evacuations must end at that time as well.

In Washington, US President Joe Biden spent much of the morning in the White House’s secure surveillance room where he was briefed on the blasts and spoke to his national security team and field commanders. in Kabul.

Overnight, warnings emerged from Western capitals of a threat from ISIS, which saw its ranks swell with the release of prisoners by the Taliban as it advanced through Afghanistan.

Shortly before the attack, Acting US Ambassador to Kabul Ross Wilson said the overnight security threat at Kabul airport was “clearly seen as credible, imminent and compelling.” But in an interview with ABC News, he did not give details.

On Wednesday evening, the United States Embassy warned citizens three doors of the airport to leave immediately due to an unspecified security threat. Australia, Britain and New Zealand also advised their citizens on Thursday not to go to the airport.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied that an attack was imminent at the airport, where the group’s fighters were deployed and sometimes used brutal tactics to control the crowd. After the attack, he appeared to dodge blame, noting that the airport is controlled by US troops.

Before the explosion, the Taliban sprayed a water cannon at people gathered at an airport gate in an attempt to drive off the crowds, as someone threw tear gas canisters elsewhere.

Nadia Sadat, a 27-year-old Afghan woman, carried her 2-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 State Department and were trying to enter the airport unsuccessfully. 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. “

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. “

IS Sunni extremists, linked to the group’s best-known affiliate in Syria and Iraq, have carried out a series of brutal attacks, mainly targeting Afghanistan’s Shia Muslim minority, including a 2020 attack on a maternity hospital in Kabul in which they killed women and infants.

The Taliban have fought Islamic State militants in Afghanistan, where the Taliban regained control almost 20 years after they were ousted in a US-led invasion. The Americans entered following the September 11 attacks, orchestrated by al-Qaida while it was sheltered by the group.

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.

“The reality on the ground is that the perimeter of the airport is closed. The Taliban have tightened the noose. It is very, very difficult for anyone to get to this stage, ”said Canadian General Wayne Eyre, the country’s acting chief of staff, said before the attack.

Lt. Col. Georges Eiden, representative of the Luxembourg army in neighboring Pakistan, said Friday would mark the official end for US allies. But two officials in the Biden administration have denied that this is the case.

A third official said the United States had worked with its allies to coordinate the departure of each country, and some countries have requested and obtained more time.

“Most are leaving later in the week,” he said, while adding that some were shutting down operations on Thursday. The three officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to discuss the information publicly.

Danish Defense Minister Trine Bramsen warned bluntly: “It is no longer safe to enter or leave Kabul by plane”.

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 Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, 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.

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.


Baldor reported from Washington and Krauss from Jerusalem. Associated Press editors Jill Lawless in London; Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Sylvie Corbet in Paris; Jan M. Olsen from Copenhagen, Denmark; Tameem Akhgar and Andrew Wilks in Istanbul; James LaPorta in Boca Raton, Florida; Mike Corder in The Hague, The Netherlands; Philip Crowther in Islamabad; Colleen Barry in Milan; and Aamer Madhani and Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.


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