At least 60 people are feared dead from two explosions near Kabul Airport, in what appears to be a sophisticated bombing campaign and suicide attack carried out by Islamic State. Two explosions took place around Abbey Gate near Kabul airport – where US and UK forces have been stationed – with the second blast near or at the Baron Hotel. Twelve US servicemen were killed in the attack. Videos being shared online show piles of bodies on the streets of Kabul – it is likely that casualty figures will rise.
In the past week, thousands of Afghans have been gathering at the airport every day in a desperate attempt to flee the country. Many have worked with the United States, UK and other Nato allies during the course of the conflict and are now in fear for their lives after the Taliban takeover. Hours before the explosions there had been warnings that Islamic militants might attack, but crowds still remained at the airport. A 31 August deadline is in place for allied troops to leave the country.
Here’s what we know so far:
- At least 60 have been killed in the blasts, including children, and 150 injured. A hospital in Afghanistan run by an Italian charity says that it is treating more than 60 of the wounded.
- The Pentagon has confirmed that 12 US troops were killed in the attack and 15 injured.
- Joe Biden has promised to continue the American evacuation and defended his decision to withdraw troops from the country. The President also pledged to hunt down the attackers, saying ‘We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.’
- General Kenneth McKenzie, Commander of US Central Command said the two bombs were ‘Followed by a number of Isis gunmen who opened fire on civilians and military forces’. McKenzie said the US was prepared to take action against those responsible for the attack.
- Until today, no American soldier had been killed in Afghanistan for 18 months. Around 5,200 American troops have been providing security at Kabul airport.
- Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack via its Telegram channel. According to the group, a militant ‘managed to reach a large gathering of translators and collaborators with the American army at "Baran Camp" near Kabul Airport and detonated his explosive belt among them, killing about 60 people and wounding more than 100 others, including Taliban fighters.’ Isis-Khorasan – a faction of Islamic State – are rivals of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
- There have been reports of further explosions in the city. A Taliban spokesman said these subsequent explosions were caused by US forces destroying equipment and residents should not worry.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) August 26, 2021
"We will not forgive, we will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay."Following twin blasts at Kabul airport, Joe Biden has vowed to continue the US evacuation operation and said he is looking at plans to strike ISIS-K assets.Latest: https://t.co/lp0PYdMbeV pic.twitter.com/yA6CDZNGOy
- In a statement, the Ministry of Defence said there had been no reported UK military or government casualties following the incident in Kabul. UK forces are working on the ground to provide security and give medical assistance to those injured in the blast.
- A Taliban spokesman has condemned the attack, saying ‘the Islamic Emirate is paying close attention to the security and protection of its people, and evil circles will be strictly stopped.’
- Boris Johnson has described the bombing as a ‘barbaric terrorist attack’ but said the UK’s evacuation operation will continue. The Prime Minister said the airlifts will ‘keep going up until the last moment’, adding ‘we have extracted the overwhelming majority under both schemes.’
— Sky News (@SkyNews) August 26, 2021
BREAKING: Prime Minister Boris Johnson calls the explosions outside Kabul airport a "barbaric terrorist attack", and says the "phenomenal" operation to evacuate people from Afghanistan will continue, but it is "coming towards the end".Latest: https://t.co/41BXTu1YEN pic.twitter.com/ZiVHGv8uwk
- Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary said: ‘Following the shocking scenes in Afghanistan today, I have issued a NOTAM (Notice to Aviation) further advising airlines to avoid Afghan airspace under 25,000ft. We will continue to keep this under review.’