ISIS claims attacks saying one of its suicide bombers targeted “translators and collaborators with the American army”.
ISIS struck the crowded gates of Kabul airport in a suicide bomb attack on Thursday, killing 60 civilians among children, 13 U.S. troops were killed.
In halted the airlift of tens of thousands of Afghans desperate to flee. Hours after the twin blasts, a third explosion was reported by news agency AFP while unconfirmed reports said there may have been more.
Kabul health officials were quoted as saying 60 civilians were killed. Video shot by Afghan journalists showed dozens of bodies strewn around a canal on the edge of the airport. At least two blasts shook the region, witnesses said.
Corpses were in the canal by the airport fence, video from the scene showed, some being fished out and laid in heaps while wailing civilians searched for loved ones.
“For a moment I thought my eardrums were blasted and I lost my sense of hearing. I saw bodies and body parts flying in the air like a tornado blowing plastic bags. I saw bodies, body parts, elders and injured men, women, and children scattered,” said one Afghan who had been trying to reach the airport. “That little water flowing in the sewage canal had turned into blood.”
The American casualties, which increased to 13 from 12 later on Thursday according to U.S. officials, were believed to be the most U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan in a single incident since 30 personnel died when a helicopter was shot down in August 2011.
The second blast was at or near Baron Hotel, where many people, including Afghans, Britons, and Americans, were instructed to gather in the recent days before going to the airport for evacuation. Further explosions could be heard later, but Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said some blasts were carried out by U.S. forces to destroy their equipment.
A former Royal Marine who runs an animal shelter in Afghanistan says he and his staff were caught up in the aftermath of the blast near the airport.
“All of a sudden we heard gunshots and our vehicle was targeted, had our driver not turned around he would have been shot in the head by a man with an AK-47,” Paul “Pen” Farthing told Britain’s Press Association news agency.
U.S. officials initially said 11 Marines and one Navy medic were among those who died. Another service member died hours later. Eighteen service members were wounded and officials warned the toll could grow. More than 140 Afghans were wounded, an Afghan official said.
One of the bombers hit people standing knee-deep in a wastewater canal under the scorching sun, throwing bodies into the stinking water. Those who moments earlier had hoped to get on flights out could be seen carrying the wounded to ambulances stunned, their clothes covered with blood.
Emergency, an Italian charity that operates hospitals in Afghanistan, said it had received at least 60 patients wounded in the airport attack, in addition to 10 who were dead when they arrived.
“Surgeons will be working into the night,” said Marco Puntin, the charity’s manager in Afghanistan. The wounded overflowed the triage zone into the physiotherapy area and more beds were being added, he said.
The Afghan official who confirmed the overall Afghan toll spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief media.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said one explosion was near an airport entrance and another was a short distance away by a hotel. McKenzie said definitely there was a failure at the airport to allow a suicide bomber to get so close to the gate.
He said the Taliban has been screening people outside the gates, though there was no indication that the Taliban deliberately allowed Thursday’s attacks to happen. He said the U.S. has asked Taliban commanders to tighten security around the airport’s perimeter.
Adam Khan was waiting nearby when he saw the first explosion outside what’s known as the Abbey gate. He said several people appeared to have been killed or wounded, including some who were maimed.
The U.S. general overseeing the evacuation said the strikes would not stop the United States from evacuating Americans and others, and flights out were continuing. Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, said there was a large amount of security at the airport, and alternate routes were being used to get evacuees in. About 5,000 people were awaiting flights on the airfield, McKenzie said.
The blasts came hours after Western officials warned of a major attack, urging people to vacate the airport, but Afghans desperate to escape the country did not heed that advice.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the killings on its Amaq news channel. The IS affiliate in Afghanistan is far more radical than the Taliban, who recently took control of the country in a lightning blitz. The Taliban were not believed to have been involved in the attacks and condemned the blasts.
In an emotional speech from the White House, U.S. President Joe Biden said the latest bloodshed would not drive the U.S. out of Afghanistan earlier than scheduled, and that he had instructed the U.S. military to develop plans to strike IS.
“We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay,” Biden said.
Before the blast, 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.
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 pushed through 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.”
Aman Karimi, 50, escorted his daughter and her family to the airport, fearful the Taliban would target her because of her husband’s work with NATO.
“The Taliban have already begun seeking those who have worked with NATO,” he said. “They are looking for them house-by-house at night.”
The Sunni extremists of IS, with links to the group’s more well-known affiliate in Syria and Iraq, have carried out a series of brutal attacks, mainly targeting Afghanistan’s Shiite Muslim minority, including a 2020 assault on a maternity hospital in Kabul in which they killed women and infants.
The Taliban have fought against Islamic State militants in Afghanistan, where the Taliban have wrested back control nearly 20 years after they were ousted in a U.S.-led invasion. The Americans went in following the 9/11 attacks, which al-Qaida orchestrated while being sheltered by the group.
Biden vowed to go after the perpetrators of Thursday’s bombing and said he had ordered the Pentagon to plan how to strike ISIS-K, the ISIS affiliate that claimed responsibility.
“We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay,” Biden said during televised comments from the White House.
The U.S. deaths were the first in action in Afghanistan in 18 months, and Joe Biden is being severely criticized for recklessly abandoning Afghanistan without achieving any stability in the nation, but rather leaving it in chaotic shambles.
After spending trillions of dollars with loss of lives of over 335,000 civilians since 2001 where over 2000 American soldiers died, thousands injured, the USA under Joe Biden left Afghanistan in a worse condition than it was in 2001. This is America’s greatest military failure and Joe Biden’s lack of military vision. His decision is going to lead to greater instability in the world, and it starts with the attack on Kabul Airport. It’s not over.