Thirteen US troops and at least 90 Afghans killed in ISIS suicide bomb attacks at Kabul airport
THIRTEEN US troops and at least 90 Afghans have been killed in ISIS suicide bomb attacks at Kabul Airport.
Two explosions rocked the airport in Afghanistan yesterday just hours before the evacuation deadline.
Thousands of people have gathered at the airport over the past 12 days hoping to be evacuated after the Taliban seized power.
At least 90 Afghans have been killed and 140 other people hurt in the attacks, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Thirteen US service members were killed, including 12 Marines and one Navy medic, while 15 were injured.
Officials said it was highly likely that Brits were among the dead.
The attacks made for America’s deadliest day in Afghanistan for 10 years – and Republicans claimed US President Joe Biden had “blood on his hands”.
Mr Biden told those behind the Kabul airport attacks: “We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.”
The blast carnage at the airport comes as…
- Hours before UK and US governments warned Kabul Airport faced ‘imminent, highly lethal’ attack
- Desperate Afghans were told ‘forget airport and run for border’ to flee from Taliban
- Ex-Marine Pen Farthing and his 200 animals were blocked from airport by Taliban
- The Taliban took a US Black Hawk helicopter for joy ride after seizing 200,000 firearms
- ISIS took responsibility for the attacks, sharing a picture of one of the bombers
Marine Corps General Kenneth McKenzie, commander of US Central Command, said: “At this time we know that 12 US service members have been killed in the attack, and 15 more service members have been injured.
“A number of Afghan civilians were also killed and injured in the attack.”
Other blasts were heard in Kabul in the hours after the earlier two.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks, sharing a picture online of one of the suicide bombers.
A US official confirmed the first blast was caused by a suicide bomb, with initial reports suggesting a second explosion was a car bomb
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said one explosion occurred near buses lined up outside Abbey Gate and the other close to the nearby Baron Hotel.
American forces in Afghanistan are now braced for more attacks.
A source told Fox News that the attacks in Kabul may be an “ongoing event” – with more violence to come.
One of the bombers reportedly hit people standing in a wastewater canal – sending bodies flying into the water.
People waiting desperately for a space on a flight out of Afghanistan were seen carrying those who had been wounded to ambulances, their clothes covered in blood.
Bloodied survivors were raced from the scene in wheelbarrows, according to local TV news channels.
It came as Foreign Office staff reportedly left documents containing the contact details of Afghans working for them scattered on the ground at the British embassy in Kabul.
Papers left at the embassy compound – now seized by the Taliban – identified seven Afghans and were found by The Times this week.
They included the name and address of a senior member of the embassy staff as well as the CVs and addresses of people who applied to work as interpreters – potentially putting their lives at risk.
Meanwhile, desperate kids showed British passports at Kabul airport just hours before the terrorist blasts.
Three-year-old Tawid, his sister Asia, six, and their mum Sultan Zari had been among crowds trying to flee Afghanistan.
Sobbing Sultan said: “Getting to the UK is everything for us. this is hell on earth.”
It was not known last night if the family had been evacuated yet.
Shocking footage showed desperate loved ones searching through dozens of bodies in a sewage canal on the outskirts of the airport.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the horrific explosions – which came just hours after officials warned of an imminent attack.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed that evacuations will continue after the “despicable” attack.
Kirby said on Twitter: “We can confirm that the explosion at the Abbey Gate was the result of a complex attack that resulted in a number of US & 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.”
A UK official said there were no reports of British military of government casualties, but US soldiers had been hurt.
Boris Johnson chaired an emergency COBRA meeting after the blast.
The PM had already warned time was running out to rescue people from Afghanistan ahead of the deadline.
A UK government spokesman said: “We are working urgently to establish what has happened and its impact on the ongoing evacuation effort.
“Our primary concern remains the safety of our personnel, British citizens and the citizens of Afghanistan.
“We are in close contact with our US and other NATO allies at an operational level on the immediate response to this incident.”
NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said allied forces should continue to evacuate as many vulnerable people as they can from Kabul despite what he branded as a “horrific terrorist attack”.
Last night the UK and US warned of a possible terror attack as militants take advantage of the chaos in Kabul as thousands try to get to the airport and on flights to get out of the area.
And an Italian military plane with 100 Afghans on board was hit by gunfire earlier yesterday.
The plane was not damaged in the incident, a source at Italy’s Defence Ministry said.
An Italian journalist traveling on the flight told Sky 24 TG the plane had been carrying almost 100 Afghan civilians when it came under fire minutes after take off.
It’s not clear whether the shots were aimed at the military plane.
Italian intelligence sources believe the plane was struck by shots fired into the air to disperse a crowd near the airport, a government source told Reuters.
Armed forces minister James Heappey described the terror threat to people outside Kabul airport as “lethal” amid concerns over ISIS-K.
“I can’t stress the desperation of the situation enough, the threat is credible, it is imminent, it is lethal,” he told BBC Breakfast.
“And we wouldn’t be saying this if we weren’t genuinely concerned about offering Islamic State a target.”
Heappey warned a possible terror attack in Kabul could come within “hours”.
He told LBC: “I was given lines today for what might happen if the attack happened while I was doing this media round.”
He added: “I don’t think everybody should be surprised by this, Daesh, or Islamic State, are guilty of all sorts of evil.
“But the opportunism of wanting to target a major international humanitarian mission is just utterly deplorable but sadly true to form for an organisation as barbarous as Daesh.”
And Colonel Richard Kemp, former head of British forces in Afghanistan, said the threat of a terror attack at the airport “has existed right the way from when this evacuation began”.
“That threat of terrorist attack, whether it’s from Taliban, the Islamic State, or al Qaida, it could equally be all three of those groups,” he told BBC Breakfast.
“The fact that people are talking about Islamic State doesn’t make that the most likely threat.
“I think that threat has existed right the way from when this evacuation began, and I have no doubt that our forces are fully aware of the threat and already, for days now, have been taking measures to try and mitigate it, to prevent something like that happening.
“But, clearly, there could be a terrorist attack of some sort against the forces in the airport, maybe forces outside the airport, and of course the people trying to get in.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The security situation in Afghanistan remains volatile.
“There is an ongoing and high threat of terrorist attack. Do not travel to Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport.
“If you are in the area of the airport, move away to a safe location and await further advice.”
‘MAKE IT TO THE BORDER’
Meanwhile Defence Secretary Ben Wallace yesterday said Afghans should stay away from the airfield – where the terror group is taking over.
Questioned about what Afghans who have been offered student places or fellowships in the UK should do, Mr Wallace said: “If they think they can make it to a third country, that may be a better option.”
Pressed by a Tory backbencher, Mr Wallace added: “I recommend that they try and make it to the border … because it is higher profile going to the airport – that is where the Taliban will be focusing their efforts at the moment.”
It comes as ministers said it was almost certain that people would be stranded after the Taliban ordered troops to quit by August 31 — and US President Joe Biden agreed.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab insists the country is working “as fast as we can” to rescue thousands of British nationals and Afghans at risk of reprisals.
But the clock is ticking for the 6,000 US troops and roughly 1,000 Paras who will need time to coordinate their retreat.
The US marines and 82nd Airborne Division troops are expected to retreat in stages, collapsing their perimeter and ceding ground to the Taliban each time their numbers shrink.
Mr Raab added: “We’re going to keep going for every day and every hour that we’ve got left.”
The Taliban said the deadline of August 31 was a red line and not negotiable.