At least 73 people – including children – are believed to have died and 140 others injured in a series of explosions at Kabul airport for which Islamic State has taken responsibility.
Thirteen US soldiers were killed in the attack by two ISIS bombers that sparked a shooting, a US official said at a Pentagon press conference this evening.
General Kenneth Frank McKenzie, commander of the US Central Command, also told reporters the forces were “in good shape” if any follow-up attacks were to occur.
He said that “deadlock is always the best defense” in these scenarios, with the US military working alongside the Taliban to close nearby roads and acting “aggressively” to prevent new threats that are “extremely real. “and could arise at any time.
The general added that there is nothing to suggest that the Taliban authorized the attacks and that the United States can continue with its evacuation mission “even while we receive attacks like this”.
He added that the United States and the Taliban have shared intelligence and if America can identify the perpetrators of the attacks, they will fight back.
Separate reports say 20 soldiers were injured and 10 in critical condition after the suspected suicide bombing in the Afghan capital.
The Ministry of Defense (MoD) confirmed that no British troops or personnel were among the victims.
In light of the attack, US President Joe Biden has said he stands by his decision to withdraw his troops from Afghanistan.
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He vowed revenge on the terrorists responsible during a heartfelt tribute to the soldiers killed, warning ISIS-K: “We will not forgive, we will not forget, we will hunt you down and make you pay”.
In a statement, ISIS claimed responsibility and said one of its suicide bombers had targeted “translators and
collaborators of the American army “.
British troops took a defensive position at the scene with all British non-military personnel taking cover in a reinforced bunker amid fears of mortar, rocket and explosive drone attacks.
Paratroopers from the UK’s 16th Air Assault Brigade are on high alert for further attacks and aerial surveillance drones patrol the airspace above the airport.
Boris Johnson has pledged to continue the evacuation effort in Afghanistan following the “barbaric” attack.
AFP via Getty Images)
The prime minister said the “overwhelming majority” of those eligible had already been helped by the RAF to flee the Taliban and “we will continue until the last moment” as the deadline quickly approaches.
No10 said the prime minister was “briefed on the situation” before chairing a COBRA meeting earlier in the evening.
He told reporters in Downing Street that the evacuation program will run “full blast” on “the schedule we have”.
“This is what we are going to do because the overwhelming majority of those who are eligible have now been extracted from Afghanistan,” he added.
The attack came hours after the Taliban captured two suspected ISIS fighters.
They are believed to have been caught while probing the airport for security loopholes.
AFP via Getty Images)
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said one explosion occurred near the Abbey Gate of the airport and the other near the nearby Baron Hotel, around 6 p.m. local time (15 BST hours).
And another anonymous US official said the attack is “certainly suspected” of having been carried out by the Islamic State group.
An explosion was apparently followed by gunfire, a technique attributed to ISIS affiliate ISIS-K and known as a “complex attack”.
MOD / AFP via Getty Images)
The intention is first to confuse the targets, followed by more massacres by armed men.
The Taliban said they condemned the attack in a statement.
An Afghan interpreter who worked with US forces during the war said a young girl died in her arms outside the airport immediately after one of the blasts.
Identified as “Carl”, he told CBSN he was heading for one of the airport gates to be evacuated when the explosion occurred and people were scattered on the ground.
AKHTER GULFAM / EPA-EFE / REX / Shutterstock)
“I saw a baby there and I went to see her and I picked her up and started to take her to the hospital.”
He estimated that she was five years old and said on the way to the hospital “she died on my hands”.
“I saw a lot of dead,” he said of the scene outside Kabul airport. “They were lying on the floor. I saw a lot of them, but I went to get this little girl.”
According to the BBC’s Secunder Kermani, videos shared online show piles of dead bodies, meaning the number of victims is expected to rise.
The airport has become the evacuation center for expatriates and Afghans and their families who have helped foreign troops, since the Taliban took control of the country last week.
The Defense Ministry said: âNo UK military or government casualties have been reported following the incidents in Kabul.
“British forces are working closely with our partners to provide security and medical assistance.”
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
But, following the attack, Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps announced that a NOTAM had been issued – advising airlines to avoid airspace above the airport.
In a tweet, he said: “Following the shocking scenes in Afghanistan today, I have issued a NOTAM (Notice to Aviation) advising airlines to avoid Afghan airspace below 25,000 feet. .
“We will continue to keep this under review.”
Foreign Affairs Committee MP Alicia Kearns said: “A bomb or gunshot attack at the north door of Baron’s hotel.
“I’m worried it’s devastating the evacuation – so many injured. My heart is with everyone who is injured and killed.”
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On Thursday morning, Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said there was “very credible information” about an “imminent” and “serious” terrorist attack at Kabul airport.
He told LBC: âI don’t think everyone should be surprised by this, Daesh, or the Islamic State, are guilty of all kinds of evil.
“But the opportunism of wanting to target a large international humanitarian mission is simply deplorable but unfortunately true for an organization as barbaric as Daesh.
âThousands of people have tried to flee the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan over the past week, many through the Kabul airport.
President Joe Biden had previously said that there was “an acute and growing risk” of an attack at the airport by the regional branch of Isis, known as the Islamic State-Khorasan or ISIS-K.
The group, made up of Pakistani and Afghan fighters, has been responsible for some particularly bloody atrocities in recent years.
His fighters have slaughtered civilians in both countries, in mosques, shrines, public places and even hospitals, and have targeted Muslims from sects he considers heretics, including Shiites.
Last year, she was accused of having unleashed guns in a maternity hospital in a predominantly Shiite neighborhood in Kabul.
Sixteen mothers and mothers-to-be lost their lives in the attack.
The race to get the locals out over the next five days is very active after the Taliban refused to extend the evacuation deadline beyond August 31.
Mr Heappey said 1,988 people had left Kabul in eight RAF flights in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 12,279.
In the past day, 19,000 people were evacuated on US flights, but many more remain in the country desperate to board a plane.
The Pentagon said 10,000 people were still waiting to be evacuated from Kabul airport by US planes.
After the fall of Kabul to the Taliban ten days ago, 82,000 people were airlifted out of the country.
Several sources told the Mirror that the attack could deal a final blow to the evacuation and mean that British forces will have to withdraw and evacuate from Kabul.