Pentagon confirms explosion outside Kabul airport, no word on casualties
The latest news on Afghanistan:
- 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”.
The Pentagon confirmed that there was an explosion Thursday outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, where thousands of people flocked as they tried to flee the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
Officials gave no immediate details of the number of casualties, but a witness said several people appeared to have been killed or injured.
Western countries had warned earlier today of a possible airport attack 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 said he was standing about 30 meters from the explosion, said several people appeared to have been killed or injured, some of whom lost body parts.
Later Thursday, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Twitter that “the explosion at Abbey Gate was the result of a complex attack which left a number of American and civilian casualties.”
“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.”
Several countries urged people to avoid the airport earlier today, with one saying there was a threat of suicide bombing. But a few days – even hours for some countries – before the end of the evacuation effort, few seemed to answer the call.
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.
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 promise not to attack Western forces during the evacuation, but insist that foreign troops must be out before the self-imposed US deadline of August 31.
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 the overnight security threat at Kabul airport was “clearly seen as credible, imminent and compelling.” But in an interview with ABC News on Thursday, he did not give details and did not say whether the threat persisted.
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.
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, with the Australian Foreign Secretary saying there was a “very high threat of attack terrorist ”.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid previously denied an impending attack.
Earlier Thursday, the Taliban sprayed a water cannon on people gathered at an airport gate in an attempt to drive off the crowds, as someone threw tear gas canisters 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’re looking for them house by house at night.”
Many Afghans share these fears. The die-hard Islamic group regained control of the country almost 20 years after being ousted in a US-led invasion following the September 11 attacks, orchestrated by al-Qaeda while it was housed by the group.
Senior U.S. officials said Wednesday’s embassy warning was linked to specific threats involving ISIS and possible car bombs. Officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to discuss ongoing military operations.
The Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan 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:
We can confirm that the explosion near the Abbey Gate of Kabul Airport left an unknown number of victims. We will continue to update.
Taliban ‘tightened the noose’, says Canadian general
“The reality on the ground is that the perimeter of the airport is closed. The Taliban have tightened the noose,” said Canadian General Wayne Eyre, the country’s acting chief of staff. “It’s very, very difficult for anyone to get to this point.”
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 Thursday shortly before. that the explosion is not 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.
An Afghan journalist for the private channel Tolo News said he was beaten by the Taliban. Ziar Yad said the fighters also beat his colleague and confiscated their cameras, technical equipment and a cell phone as they tried to cover poverty in Kabul.
“The issue was shared with the Taliban leadership; however, the perpetrators have not yet been arrested, posing a serious threat to freedom of expression, ”Yad wrote on Twitter.