Blast death toll rises; Daesh claims responsibility; US drone strike targets blast planner
The United States urged its citizens Friday to “immediately” leave the gates around Kabul’s airport, where a suicide bomber this week targeted crowds trying to flee Taliban rule.
Earlier Friday, the Pentagon said that the high-risk Kabul airlift operation to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies still faced “specific, credible threats”.
“US citizens who are at the Abbey gate, East gate, North gate or the New Ministry of Interior gate now should leave immediately,” the US Embassy in Kabul said in a security alert.
The US military said Friday it had carried out a drone strike against a “planner” of the Islamic State-Khorasan (Daesh), the group which claimed credit for the deadly suicide bombing at Kabul airport.
The death toll in the Kabul airport suicide attack has reached 170, The New York Times reported on their website on Friday, quoting local health officials.
According to latest update from Associated Press, two officials said the Afghan death toll in the bombing rose to 169, while the United States said it was the deadliest day for American forces in Afghanistan since August 2011.
The Pentagon said Friday 5,400 people are inside Kabul airport awaiting evacuation from Afghanistan, one day after a deadly attack on the operation by Daesh, reported AFP.
General Hank Taylor said that in the 24 hours to 3:00 am Washington time, 12,500 more people had been evacuated in 89 US and coalition flights.
The United States, which has set a deadline of August 31 to complete the evacuation, will be able to airlift people out “until the last moment,” Taylor told reporters.
US forces helping to evacuate Afghans desperate to flee new Taliban rule were on alert for more attacks on Friday after a Daesh attack killed more than hundred people including 13 U.S. service members just outside Kabul airport.
General Frank McKenzie, head of US Central Command, said US commanders were watching for more attacks by Daesh, including possibly rockets or car bombs targeting the airport.
“We’re doing everything we can to be prepared,” McKenzie said, adding that some intelligence was being shared with the Taliban and he believed “some attacks have been thwarted by them”.
The last Italian evacuation flight has left Kabul carrying Afghan civilians as well as Italian diplomats and military officials, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Friday.
Earlier, the defence ministry said its planes had airlifted more than 4,800 Afghans out of the country as part of an international evacuation effort after the Taliban unexpectedly seized control of the capital Kabul earlier this month.
Evacuation flights from Afghanistan resumed with new urgency on Friday, a day after two suicide bombings targeted the thousands of desperate people fleeing the Taliban takeover and killed more than 100.
The US says further attempted attacks are expected ahead of the Tuesday deadline for foreign troops to leave, ending America’s longest war. As the call to prayer echoed through Kabul with the whine of departing planes, the anxious crowd outside the airport was as large as ever.
In one location, dozens of Taliban members with heavy weapons about 500 meters from the airport were preventing anyone from venturing forward. Thursday’s bombings near Kabul’s international airport killed at least 95 Afghans and 13 US troops, Afghan and U. officials said, in the deadliest day for US forces in Afghanistan since August 2011.
An official said Friday that the true toll could be higher because other people may have taken bodies away from the scene, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Kabul health officials on Friday were quoted as saying 85 Afghan civilians were killed in the attack on Thursday. Video shot by Afghan journalists showed dozens of bodies strewn around a canal on the edge of the airport. At least two blasts and gunfire rocked the area, witnesses said.
Following are the latest developments
Evacuations accelerate despite the Deash threat. Foreign forces aim to get citizens and embassy staff out by August 30. Nearly 100,000 evacauted in 12 days.
Daesh said one of its suicide bombers targeted “translators and collaborators with the American army”. US officials also blamed the group and vowed retribution.
General Frank McKenzie, head of US Central Command, said US commanders were on alert for more attacks by Daesh, including possibly rockets or vehicle-borne bombs targeting the airport.
“We’re doing everything we can to be prepared,” he said.
President Joe Biden, his voice breaking with emotion, vowed on Thursday the United States will hunt down the attackers of twin explosions at the Kabul airport and said he has asked the Pentagon to develop plans to strike back at the militants.
“We will not forgive, we will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay,” he said in remarks at the White House.
He said the US service members who were killed in attacks outside the airport in Kabul were “heroes”. “They were engaged in a dangerous, selfless mission to save the lives of others.” At least a dozen US service members were killed in Thursday’s attacks, along with scores of Afghans. He said the United States will not be deterred from its mission to evacuate thousands of civilians from Afghanistan despite the deadly suicide attack.
“We will not be deterred by terrorists. We will not let them stop our mission. We will continue the evacuation,” Biden added.
He said there is no sign of ‘collusion’ between Taliban and Daesh group that claimed the attack. Answering a question, Biden added “he doesn’t believe relying on the Taliban for help in evacuation security was a mistake”. The US President added that his country will try to continue to get the Afghans who helped the US out of Afghanistan after August 31.
US forces are racing to complete their withdrawal from Afghanistan by an Aug. 31 deadline set by President Joe Biden, who says the United States had long ago achieved its original rationale for invading the country in 2001: to root out Al Qaida militants and prevent a repeat of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
Biden said he had ordered the Pentagon to plan how to strike ISIS-K, the Daesh affiliate that claimed responsibility.
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.
“I saw bodies and body parts flying in the air like a tornado blowing plastic bags,” said one Afghan who had been trying to reach the airport. “That little water flowing in the sewage canal had turned into blood.” Zubair, a 24 year-old civil engineer, who had been trying for nearly a week to get inside the airport, said he was close to a suicide bomber who detonated explosives at the gate.
“Men, women and children were screaming. I saw many injured people — men, women and children — being loaded into private vehicles and taken toward the hospitals,” he said.
A Taliban spokesman described the attack as the work of “evil circles” who would be suppressed once foreign troops leave.
Western countries fear that the Taliban, who once sheltered Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaida, will allow Afghanistan to turn again into a haven for militants. The Taliban say they will not let the country be used by terrorists.
The United States would press on with evacuations despite the threat of further attacks, McKenzie said, noting that there were still around 1,000 US citizens in Afghanistan. In the past 12 days, Western countries have evacuated nearly 100,000 people. But they acknowledge that thousands will be left behind when the last US troops leave at the end of the month.
Several Western countries said the mass airlift of civilians was coming to an end and announced their last remaining troops had left the country.
The American casualties in Thursday’s attack were believed to be the most US troops killed in Afghanistan in a single incident since 30 personnel died when a helicopter was shot down in 2011.
The US deaths were the first in action in Afghanistan in 18 months, a fact likely to be cited by critics who accuse Biden of recklessly abandoning a stable and hard-won status quo by ordering an abrupt pullout.
Gulf News followed the Kabul attacks story live as it developed. Here are the updates as the story happened:
The US Defence Department said Thursday that the number of American troops killed in the suicide bombings at Kabul airport rose by one to 13, and the number of injured was 18. “A thirteenth US service member has died from his wounds suffered as a result of the attack on Abbey Gate,” Central Command spokesman Captain Bill Urban said in a statement.
President Joe Biden on Thursday reaffirmed August 31 as the deadline for US troops to leave Afghanistan, in the wake of a deadly attack on Kabul airport.
Biden, who earlier vowed to continue the evacuation of civilians from Kabul, said there remained an “opportunity for the next several days, between now and the 31st, to be able to get them out.”
“Knowing the threat, knowing that we may very well have another attack, the military has concluded that that’s what we should do. I think they are right.”
US President Joe Biden said Thursday he has seen no evidence that the Taliban colluded with Islamic State militants in carrying out the deadly attacks in Kabul.
“There is no evidence thus far that I’ve been given as a consequence by any of the commanders in the field that there has been collusion between the Taliban and ISIS in carrying out what happened today,” Biden said in an address at the White House.
President Joe Biden vowed on Thursday that the United States will not be deterred from its mission to evacuate thousands of civilians from Afghanistan despite the deadly suicide attack on Kabul airport.
“We will not be deterred by terrorists. We will not let them stop our mission. We will continue the evacuation,” Biden said in a televised address.
US President Joe Biden pledged on Thursday to hunt down the perpetrators of the suicide bombings in Kabul that killed 12 American troops.
“We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay,” Biden said in an address from the White House during which he praised the slain US troops as “heroes.”
Former US president Donald Trump, who has sharply criticized his successor Joe Biden’s handling of the crisis in Afghanistan, called Thursday’s suicide attacks in Kabul a “tragedy” and said the bombings “should never have been allowed to happen.”
“Melania and I send our deepest condolences to the families of our brilliant and brave Service Members whose duty to the USA meant so much to them. Our thoughts are also with the families of the innocent civilians who died today in the savage Kabul attack,” Trump said in a statement.
“This tragedy should never have been allowed to happen, which makes our grief even deeper and more difficult to understand.”
The UAE has strongly condemned the terrorist attack that took place outside Hamid Karzai International Airport, targeting crowds of people hoping to get on flights out of Afghanistan,
In a statement issued on Friday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC) expressed the UAE’s vehement condemnation of these criminal acts, stressing its permanent rejection of all forms of violence and terrorism that aim to destabilize security and stability.
Read more here.
A large explosion was heard in Kabul late on Thursday as the U.S. military destroyed ammunition, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Thursday.
Two witnesses in an area some 3-4 kilometres from the airport said earlier they had heard a huge explosion, hours after a Daesh suicide attack killed dozens of people trying to board evacuation flights.
President Joe Biden will address the nation Thursday at 5pm (1am UAE) on the suicide bombing attack against the US evacuation operation from Kabul’s airport, the White House said.
Biden will make “remarks on the terror attack at Hamid Karzai International Airport, and the US service members and Afghan victims killed and wounded,” the White House said.
A huge blast rocked Kabul early Friday, hours after a deadly twin bomb attack at the airport that was claimed by Islamic State.
The new blast was heard by AFP staff. It was not immediately clear what caused it, and in the absence of any administration since the Taliban takeover on August 15, further details were not immediately available.
Daesh claimed responsibility for a deadly suicide blast at the airport in Kabul on Thursday during the US-led evacuation from Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, the SITE monitoring agency said.
The bomber “was able today to penetrate all the security fortifications” and get within “five meters” of US forces before detonating his explosives belt, the extremist group’s propaganda arm Amaq said, according to a translation by SITE.
The statement only appeared to mention one bomber and one blast. At least two bombs are believed to have detonated during Thursday’s attack at the airport.
Two US officials say death toll of US troops killed at Kabul airport now at least 12, a Reuters update said. There was no complete death toll of Afghan civilians but video images uploaded by Afghan journalists showed dozens of bodies of people killed in packed crowds outside the airport.
As many as 20 people were killed in the blast, AFP reports quoting Taliban sources.
Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s main spokesman, told AFP that “between 13 and 20” people were killed and 52 wounded in the twin blasts, while Kabul hospitals reported six dead and up to 90 wounded.
Several US troops were killed in the bomb attack at Kabul airport Thursday, and more were wounded, the Pentagon said in a statement.
“We can confirm that a number of US service members were killed in today’s complex attack on Kabul airport,” said spokesman John Kirby.
“A number of others are being treated for wounds,” he said, calling it a “heinous attack.”
US official says at least three service members killed in Kabul attack, citing initial information, Reuters reported. According to Associated Press, several Marines were killed and a number of other American military were wounded the attacks. US officials have said that information is still coming in and they are trying to determine exact numbers of casualties. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing military operations, reported AP.
Earlier, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said there were “a number” of US and civilian casualties in the bombings, which came just hours after western officials said they had intelligence that suicide bombings were planned against the airport.
“We can confirm that the explosion at the Abbey Gate was the result of a complex attack that resulted in a number of US & civilian casualties,” Kirby said in a tweeted statement.
“We can also confirm at least one other explosion at or near the Baron Hotel, a short distance from Abbey Gate,” he said.
The Baron Hotel, about 200 yards from the Abbey Gate, had been used by some western nations as a staging point for evacuations since the airlift began on August 14.
The Taliban said initial reports indicated 13 Afghans were killed and 52 others were wounded in the attack outside the Kabul airport.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed said by phone that the number of casualties could increase, Bloomberg reported.
The US State Department said there were also reports of gunfire.
“US citizens should avoid traveling to the airport and avoid airport gates. Those at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately,” it said.
Thousands of people have massed over the past 12 days near the Abbey Gate and other entrances to the Hamid Karzai International Airport, hoping to be evacuated after the Taliban took control of the country.
US officials say the Taliban has cooperated with the evacuation efforts.
But US and allied officials said in the past day that they had intelligence that suicide bombers tied to the Afghan arm of the Daesh – the Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) – were threatening to attack the airport ahead of Washington’s August 31 deadline to finalize the evacuation.
The group is known to be at odds with the Taliban.
Britain will “continue” the operation to evacuate nationals and Afghans from Kabul despite Thursday’s bomb attack, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
“We’ve been ready for it,” he said of the attack. “We’re going to continue with that operation, we’re now coming towards the very end of it in any event.”
Earlier Thursday, Britain’s armed forces minister James Heappey called the threat “imminent.”
Britain’s Ministry of Defence said after the explosion that they were “working urgently” to understand what happened and how that would impact evacuation operations.
“Our primary concern remains the safety of our personnel, British citizens and the citizens of Afghanistan. We are in close contact with our US and other Nato allies at an operational level on the immediate response to this incident,” the ministry said.
Most member nations of the US-led coalition said Thursday they had wound up or would soon end their own evacuation flights from Hamid Karzai International Airport.
The total number of people who have been taken out of the US-controlled hub since the international airlift began on August 14 hit 95,700 Thursday, including both Afghans and foreign nationals.
President Joe Biden said Tuesday that the United States would stick to its deadline of withdrawing all troops from Afghanistan by August 31, to end the two-decade US-led war there.
A spokesman for the Taliban, which seized Kabul on August 15 to cap a lightning campaign against government forces, said Tuesday the evacuation operation had to end on August 31.
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