The already chaotic evacuation of allied forces and their Afghan partners from Kabul was thrown into disarray on Thursday after a string of suicide blasts near airport gates caused numerous casualties among US forces and people trying to flee.
A source with the Afghan health authority told Sputnik that at least 40 people died and a hundred others were wounded in three attacks by suicide bombers and gunmen. An Italian health charity said its surgical center in Kabul was treating 60 of those hurt in the explosions.
A spokesman with the Pentagon, which is responsible for airport security, said a number of US service members had been killed in what he described as a “complex attack,” with several others being treated for wounds. Fox news said at least 11 marines and a navy medic died.
Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban (banned in Russia) political office, said the militancy “strongly condemns the bombing of civilians at Kabul airport” and promised to punish those responsible.
‘RESURGENCE OF TERRORISM’
The first blast hit the crowded Abbey Gate in the afternoon and was followed by a second explosion near The Baron Hotel, a short distance from the gate, where thousands of people had amassed in the hope of getting a lift out of Kabul. A third explosion hit the airport hours later.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the attack despicable. She said it targeted people desperate to leave the country. There are reportedly civilians, including women and children among those killed. Taliban members were also hit.
European Council President Charles Michel said he hoped the attacks would not lead to a “resurgence of terrorism.” They come at a time when allies are racing against the clock to wrap up evacuations by August 31, a deadline imposed by US President Joe Biden.
“Securing safe passage to the airport remains vital. We need to ensure the current instability cannot give rise to a resurgence of terrorism,” Michel said.
The Islamic State-Khorasan terror group (IS-K, banned in Russia), the Taliban’s rival, is largely believed to be behind the blasts. Mohammad Naeem, a Taliban official, told Sputnik that he could not say for sure if the IS affiliate was involved but admitted that “all options are possible.”
EVACUATIONS AT RISK
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that NATO’s priority remained to evacuate as many people to safety as quickly as possible. Not all NATO allies are on board with this plan.
Canada and several European countries ended evacuation missions. The Netherlands’ prime minister, Mark Rutte, hinted that he would rely on European allies to fly stranded Dutch nationals out of the war-torn country.
German armed forces shut down the airlift shortly after the second blast erupted. Merkel promised that her government would continue evacuation talks with the Taliban so that no German was left behind.
The United States, the United Kingdom and France vowed to continue rescue flights despite the rapidly deteriorating security at the airport.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the threat of a terror attack was “one of the constraints that we’ve been operating under” and promised to continue the “big extraction.” His transport secretary, Grant Shapps, nevertheless advised that airlines avoid Afghan airspace under 25,000 feet.
The United States and NATO also asked Pakistan to facilitate the evacuation of foreign citizens from Kabul, a source in the Pakistani foreign ministry told Sputnik.
“It is possible that several flights from Kabul will land in Karachi International Airport carrying employees of American and international humanitarian organizations,” the source said.