KABUL: An explosion went off on Thursday (August 26) outside Kabul’s airport, where thousands of people have flocked as they try to flee the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. Western nations had warned of a possible attack there in the waning days of a massive airlift. The Pentagon confirmed the blast, with no immediate word on casualties. “We can confirm an explosion outside Kabul airport. Casualties are unclear at this time. We will provide additional details when we can,” John Kirby wrote.
An Afghan man says he saw several people who appeared to be killed or wounded in an explosion among crowds waiting outside one of the gates to Kabul airport. Adam Khan says some people appeared to be missing body parts. He says he was about 30 meters (yards) from Thursday’s blast. The explosion occurred as Western nations are struggling to evacuate people following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
According to another report, another explosion took place at Kabul airport. The second blast happened next to Baron hotel and so far 11 people are said to have been killed in the incident whereas 15 have been injured.
— Sudhir Chaudhary (@sudhirchaudhary) August 26, 2021
Several countries urged people to avoid the airport earlier in the day, with one saying there was a threat of a suicide bombing. But just days or even hours for some nations before the evacuation effort ends, few appeared to heed the call. Over the last week, the airport has been the scene of some of the most searing images of the chaotic end of America’s longest war and the Taliban’s takeover, as flight after flight took off carrying those who fear a return to the militants’ brutal rule.
Already, some countries have ended their evacuations and begun to withdraw their soldiers and diplomats, signaling the beginning of the end of one of history’s largest airlifts. The Taliban have pledged not to attack Western forces during the evacuation, but insist the foreign troops must be out by America’s self-imposed deadline of August 31.
Overnight, warnings emerged from Western capitals about a threat from Afghanistan’s Islamic State group affiliate, which likely has seen its ranks boosted by the Taliban’s freeing of prisoners during their blitz across the country.
British Armed Forces Minister James Heappey told the BBC early Thursday there was ‘very, very credible reporting of an imminent attack’ at the airport, possibly within ‘hours.’ Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said his country had received information from the U.S. And other countries about the threat of suicide attacks on the mass of people.”
The acting US Ambassador to Kabul, Ross Wilson, said the security threat at the Kabul airport overnight was ‘clearly regarded as credible, as imminent, as compelling.’ But in an interview with ABC News, he would not give details and did not say whether the threat remained.
Hours later, the blast was reported.
Wilson also said there remain ‘safe ways’ for Americans to reach the airport, but ‘there undoubtedly will be’ Afghans who had worked with or for the U.S. In Afghanistan who will not be able to get out before the evacuation ends.
Late Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy warned citizens at three airport gates to leave immediately due to an unspecified security threat.
Australia, Britain and New Zealand also advised their citizens Thursday not to go to the airport, with Australia’s foreign minister saying there was a ‘very high threat of a terrorist attack.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied that any attack was imminent in the wake of those warnings.
Earlier Thursday, the Taliban sprayed a water cannon at those gathered at one airport gate to try to drive the crowd away, as someone launched tear gas canisters elsewhere. While some fled, others just sat on the ground, covered their faces and waited in the noxious fumes.
Nadia Sadat, a 27-year-old Afghan, carried her 2-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 was the State Department and were trying to get into the airport without any luck. Her husband had pressed ahead in the crowd to try to get them inside.
“We have to find a way to evacuate because our lives are in danger,” Sadat said. “My husband received several threatening messages from unknown sources. We have no chance except escaping.”
Gunshots later echoed in the area as Sadat waited. “There is anarchy because of immense crowds,” she said, blaming the U.S. For the chaos.