Suspected terrorist suicide bombers struck the crowded gates of Kabul airport with at least two explosions on Thursday, causing a bloodbath among desperate civilians hoping to flee and casting the final days of the Western airlift of its allies into chaos.
A Taliban terrorist group official said at least 13 people including children had been killed. A surgical hospital run by an Italian charity said it was treating more than 60 wounded.
The U.S. ambassador in Kabul has told staff there that four U.S. Marines were killed in an explosion at the city’s airport and three wounded, a U.S. official with knowledge of the briefing said. The explosions ripped through crowds of Afghans trying to enter the airport on Thursday.
At least three U.S. troops were injured, a U.S. official added.
Video images uploaded to the internet by an Afghan journalist showed a pile of bloodsoaked bodies in a street surrounded by debris. The man filming it was wailing.
We can confirm that the explosion at the Abbey Gate was the result of a complex attack that resulted in a number of U.S. and civilian casualties. We can also confirm at least one other explosion at or near the Baron Hotel, a short distance from Abbey Gate, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said on Twitter.
The explosion took place amid crowds outside the airport, where desperate Afghans have been massing in hope of escaping in an airlift which the United States says will end by Tuesday following the swift capture of the country by the Taliban.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blasts, but Washington and its allies including Australia and the U.K. had been urging civilians to stay away from the airport on Thursday because of a threat of a suicide attack by Islamic State militants, enemies of both the West and the Taliban.
Western countries have evacuated nearly 100,000 people, mostly Afghans who helped them, in the past 12 days. But they acknowledge that thousands more will be left behind following President Joe Biden’s order to pull out all troops by Aug 31.
Canadian, German, Turkish and French. forces halted their evacuations on Thursday, saying they had stayed as long as they could before the deadline lapses.
Mr. Biden ordered all troops out of Afghanistan by the end of the month to comply with a withdrawal agreement with the Taliban, despite European allies saying they needed more time.
In an alert on Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul advised citizens to avoid travelling to the airport and said those already at the gates should leave immediately.
British Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said intelligence about a possible suicide bomb attack by IS militants had become “much firmer”.
The Terrorists Who Attacked
The terrorists claiming allegiance to ISIS-K first began appearing in eastern Afghanistan at the end of 2014 but the ultra-radical Sunni movement soon expanded from the area near the border with Pakistan where it first appeared.
Daesh, as it is widely known in Afghanistan, established a reputation for extreme brutality as it fought the Taliban both for ideological reasons and for control of local smuggling and narcotics routes, according to Western intelligence services.
It also claimed a series of suicide attacks in cities such as Kabul, where as well as government and civilian institutions, it particularly attacked targets associated with the Shi’ite religious minority.