Blasts Rock Areas Outside Kabul's Airport Hours After Warnings of Daesh Terror Threat
13:42 GMT 26.08.2021 (Updated: 18:49 GMT 26.08.2021)
Earlier Thursday, a senior UK defence official warned that there was an "imminent" threat of a "severe" terrorist attack at the Kabul airport by Daesh-Khorasan, a branch of the Islamic State* terrorist group operating in Afghanistan.
Two explosions rocked areas near the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Thursday, causing multiple casualties among US forces, Afghan civilians and Taliban fighters assigned to guard the airport.
The first explosion, which took place near the airport's eastern gate, was attributed to bomb planted in a vehicle, and local media say a firefight took place involving unknown militants and US-led coalition forces tasked with guarding the airport amid the continued evacuation of troops, diplomats and civilians.
A second explosion, believed to have been caused by a suicide bomber, hit near a hotel situated near the airport and used by British and US forces. Reporters citing unnamed State Department officials said that 'four or more' US troops were injured in the attack.
A source in Afghanistan's Health Ministry has told Sputnik that over 40 people were killed, and more than 100 others injured in the twin blasts, among them women and children.
An official from the militant group's political office told Sputnik that the Taliban is unaware of who is responsible for the attacks.
In a statement, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed that "several" Taliban fighters guarding the airport were injured in one of the blasts. "We categorically condemn what happened," Mujahid said, his remarks quoted by Lebanon's Al-Mayadin TV.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby confirmed via Twitter that two explosions took place, and said the "complex attack" caused an unspecified number of "US and civilian casualties."
Later Thursday, Kirby said
the Pentagon could confirm "that a number of US service members were killed" in the attack, with "a number of others...being treated for wounds. We also know that a number of Afghans fell victim to this heinous attack," the spokesman said.
Kirby did not specify how many US troops were killed. However, an unnamed official told the Wall Street Journal that 'at least four Marines' were killed and three others wounded in the attack. Later, a Fox News reporter tweeted that "at least" 10 US service members were among the dead, with dozens more wounded.
Graphic footage circulating online shows what seems like dozens of fatalities among Afghan civilians.
A Fox News reporter said that as many as "hundreds" of Daesh-Khorasan fighters may still be in the vicinity of the airport and that the attacks are likely to continue.
An informed source told CNN that President Joe Biden has been made aware of the incident. Separately, Axios reported that the attacks prompted the president to put off his planned talks with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who is in Washington for talks.
Turkey's Defence Ministry confirmed the explosions, and indicated that Turkish forces were not affected.
Photos and footage from the scene show blood-soaked civilians being led out of the affected area near the airport and hotel.
Afghan TV broadcaster TOLO News showed a chaotic scene outside an emergency hospital admitting patients who were injured.
France's ambassador to Afghanistan asked people in the vicinity of the airport to leave the area immediately after the first explosion, based on information that another blast was possible.
The twin incidents, which High Council for National Reconciliation chief Abdullah Abdullah formally classified as a terrorist attack, has caused a a halt in the evacuation process from the Kabul airport.
Thursday's attack came just hours James Heappey, British parliamentary under-secretary of state for the armed forces, warned that there was "very, very credible reporting of [the threat of] an imminent attack"
on the airport.
A Biden administration source and another source told Politico
that the White House attributes the terror attack on the airport to Daesh. Local media have reported that the terrorist group's Afghanistan branch - ISIS-Khorasan, has claimed responsibility.
ISIS-Khorasan and the Taliban have been at war with one another for years, and the Taliban has repeatedly promised Afghanistan's neighbours and other state actors that it would strive to keep the foreign terrorist group out of the areas of the country that it controls.
Thursday's attack comes amid the ongoing withdrawal of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan, with US officials pledging to complete the pullout by the end of August as planned. Tens of thousands of military personnel, Western diplomats and Afghans who assisted US forces during the 19+ year occupation of Afghanistan have been evacuated to date. The emergency evacuations come in the wake of the sudden and unexpected disintegration of the Afghan government on 15 August following the Taliban's offensive to take Kabul and other major cities.
* A terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.