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Kabul Airport attack: 77 Afghans, 13 US troops killed

Two other blasts were reported elsewhere in Afghan capital

SAMAA | and - Posted: Aug 27, 2021 | Last Updated: 3 months ago
SAMAA | and
Posted: Aug 27, 2021 | Last Updated: 3 months ago

Photo: AFP

Two powerful explosions and gunfire at the Kabul airport have killed 77 people including 13 US troops and injured over 100, a day after western intelligence services warned that the facility may be targeted by terrorists.

The death toll continues to rise from the Thursday evening blasts and is “expected to rise” further. The US service members killed in the attack included 10 Marines and one Navy medic, news agency AP reported quoting two US officials.

Two other blasts were also reported from Kabul. One in the central part of the city occurred when a Taliban vehicle hit an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). However, no casualties were reported from these blasts.

US President under pressure

President Joe Biden, under enormous pressure over his administration’s handling of the Afghan crisis, said the airlift would not be derailed and vowed to punish those responsible.

“We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay,” he said.

However Biden also insisted all American troops must leave Afghanistan and the airlift will end by Tuesday, partly due to the threat of more IS attacks.

More than 100,000 people have been flown out of Afghanistan since the Taliban swept into power on August 15, with Afghans desperate to escape the feared hardline rule of the fundamentalist Islamists.

The Taliban had allowed US-led forces to conduct the airlift, while planning to finalise their own government as soon as the American troops left.

Pentagon Statement

The US Defense Department said Thursday that the number of American troops killed in the suicide bombings at Kabul airport rose by one to 13, and the number of wounded was 18, reported AFP.  While AP reported on the number of US troops killed, Wall Street Journal said at least 100 Afghans have also died.

“A thirteenth US service member has died from his wounds suffered as a result of the attack on Abbey Gate,” Central Command spokesman Captain Bill Urban said in a statement.

Ten of those killed and several wounded were US Marines, Marine Corps spokesman Major Jim Stenger said in a statement.

“We mourn the loss of these Marines and pray for their families,” Stenger said.

“Our Marines will continue the mission, carrying on our Corps´ legacy of always standing ready to meet the challenges of every extraordinary task our Nation requires,” he said.

The military has yet to provide any details of what occurred in the attack, which was carried out by the Afghanistan branch of the Daesh group.

Initially, a Taliban official told news agency Reuters that the blasts killed 13 people including children. A local news agency Asvaka put the death toll at 20 and the number of injured at over 100.

Later, Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s main spokesman, told AFP that “between 13 and 20” people were killed and 52 wounded in the twin blasts, while Kabul hospitals reported six dead and up to 90 wounded.

Nearly four hours after the blast, WSJ quoted an Afghan official as saying that 60 Afghans had died “with many more fighting for their lives.”

The first blast was reported around 7:30 PM on Thursday and was quickly confirmed by Pentagon press secretary John Kirby.

Reports suggest that the first blasts occurred at the Abbey Gate into the international airport; it is also called the East Gate and is used by civilians to access the airport. The second blast occurred close to the Baron Hotel near the gate, which Western nations had used to stage some evacuations.

Plumes of smoke were seen rising into the sky from a site near the airport.

Afghanistan’s Tolo News said the first blast came ‘from within the crowd,’ suggesting that it was a suicide attack. Unconfirmed reports claimed both blasts were suicide bombings.

Pakistan condemns

Pakistan strongly condemned the dreadful terrorist attack at Kabul airport and extended its condolences to the grieving families, according to a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Heart-wrenching Images

Afghanistan’s local new agency Asvaka shared videos and images depicting the aftermath of the blast. One of the videos shows people lying unconscious or dead amid piles of what looks like trash but what must have been the belongings of the people trying to leave the country. A few men bend over them to identify some faces.

Asvaka photos show men with bloodied faces being rushed in handcarts towards the hospital. Some of the injured men had to walk. In AFP images wounded women are seen crying as they arrive at the hospital with blood on their faces.

Volunteer use a hand cart to carry a blast victim to the hospital in Kabul.(Photo: Twitter)
Volunteer use a hand cart to carry a blast victim to the hospital in Kabul.(Photo: Twitter)

“When people heard the explosion there was total panic. The Taliban then started firing in the air to disperse the crowd at the gate,” a witness told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“I saw a man rushing with an injured baby in his hands,” he added.

Another graphic video shared on social media showed bodies lying semi-submerged in a canal adjacent to the airport, where thousands have gathered since the Taliban takeover of August 15 hoping for a flight out.

‘American Failure’

The Taliban condemned the blasts, saying they occurred in an area under US military control.

“The Islamic Emirate strongly condemns the bombing targeting civilians at Kabul airport,” said a statement released by Mujahid on Twitter.

Read also Italian plane fired at amid reports of rogue NDS unit activity

Terror threat at Kabul airport

Early Thursday Kabul time Western nations warned their citizens to immediately leave the surrounds of the airport over a terrorist threat, as thousands of people tried to reach a dwindling number of evacuation flights.

“Those at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately,” said the US State Department.

The advisory was issued a day after newspaper reports revealed that western intelligence services had warned of a terror threat for Kabul airport.

The blast comes as several western countries plan to end their evacuation flights citing an acute threat of an attack possibly within hours.

There are as many as 10,000 people at Kabul airport waiting to be airlifted by the US and its allies. More than 90,000 have fled the country since August 15 when the Taliban took over Kabul.

US President Joe Biden had earlier cited an “acute” terrorist threat from the regional chapter of the Islamic State jihadist group.

The US government and its allies had raised the alarm with a series of advisories warning their citizens to avoid the airport.

No specifics were given in the terror advisories, but Belgium Prime Minister Alexander De Croo referred to a threat from suicide bombers.

London also issued a warning to its citizens, saying “if you can leave Afghanistan safely by other means, you should do so immediately”.

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