12 US soldiers Dead in attack at Kabul airport
AP reports that at least 12 US service members were killed by the Afghanistan suicide bombings, including 11 Marines and one Navy medic, according to two US officials.
Officials say a number of US military troops were wounded. They warn, however, that the numbers may grow.
As many as 10 US serviceman – including four Marines – are thought to have died in two bomb attacks outside Kabul airport, while reports suggest a third explosion has been heard in the capital tonight.
Jihadist splinter group ISIS-K are believed to be behind the two earlier blasts outside the gates of Kabul airport, where thousands of Afghans were awaiting evacuation.
Reports from the US suggest as many as 10 American service personnel are among those thought to have died in the attacks.
Today’s attacks have raised further concerns about the Taliban’s capability to govern Afghanistan with the threat of a resurgent extremist groups a particular concern in recent months.
Many have been worried by an intensification of attacks linked to ISKP.
“The trajectory of ISKP has been one of resurgence after a tough time in 2019 and the first half of 2020 … but they went silent suddenly since the Taliban takeover and a possible reason for that was the group were gearing up for a new campaign,” said Charlie Winter, a senior research fellow at London University’s International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR).
Senior health officials tonight told the BBC the death toll could be as high as 60 people, with 140 more injured. US officials have today confirmed a ‘number’ of US forces personnel have died in the attacks. UK defence officials say they do not believe any British troops have been killed.
It comes amid reports of a third blast in Kabul tonight. Reporters on the ground say the blast was heard near to the airport this evening. No official details have yet been released.
The bombings – which comes after warnings by US and UK officials of an ‘imminent’ terror attack – could now spark an immediate to the West’s frantic evacuation efforts in Afghanistan.
Reuters: at least 10 US troops killed in twin blasts
Reuters’ foreign policy correspondent, Idrees Ali, has been informed by a US Pentagon official that at least 10 US troops were killed in the blasts outside Kabul aiport.
He says this is a number “expected to rise”.
NATO countries, including Denmark, have already stopped their evacuation efforts this evening, while the gates to the airport have now been sealed by US troops in the aftermath.
However Boris Johnson, who this evening chaired an emergency COBRA meeting at Downing Street, insisted the UK will continue its evacuation flights. UK officials earlier today said there were a dozen evacuation flights still scheduled to leave Kabul.
It comes after as the Taliban say as many as 60 people, including children, were killed in two separate explosions near Kabul airport today – just hours after warnings of an ‘imminent’ and ‘lethal’ ISIS terror attack.
The first blast was set off by a suicide bomber outside the Barons Hotel where British troops, journalists and UN officials have been staying during frantic evacuation mission by Western forces.
It was then followed by gunfire and mass panic before a second explosion ripped through a crowd of Afghans gathered at the Abbey Gate of the Hamid Karzai airport.
Taliban, who this evening condemned the ‘evil’ attacks, say there have been at least 40 deaths.
It is believed at least four US Marines are among those to have been killed. The Pentagon today confirmed that ‘a number’ of US service members had been killed, though they did not release any further details.
However, in a press conference this evening, Mr Johnson said the attacks would not stop the UK’s evacuation mission. He said: ‘It is not going to interrupt our progress, we are going to get on with this evacuation.’
‘There were always going to vulnerabilities to terrorism and opportunistic terrorist attacks, we condemn them, I think they are despicable, but I am afraid they are something we had to prepare for.’
Images from the scene show scores of bodies piled up on the streets and bloodied people being carried away in wheelbarrows, with one emergency hospital treating 60 wounded people after six died on their way there.
An Afghan man queuing to enter the airport said the explosion hit the middle of a crowd of thousands, and he saw many injured and maimed people near where US troops were stationed.
An Afghan translator, named only as ‘Carl’, who witnessed the attacks, said a baby girl died in his arms after trying to save her when spotting her on the ground.
A US official said ISIS-K, a splinter of the terror group who are the sworn enemy of the Taliban, are ‘definitely believed’ to have carried out the attack.
Many had feared an attack could derail the evacuations, with the airport a likely target with crowds rushing to escape and many Western troops stationed at the transport hub.
Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby said: ‘We can confirm that the explosion at the Abbey Gate was the result of a complex attack that resulted in a number of US and civilian casualties.
‘We can also confirm at least one other explosion at or near the Baron Hotel, a short distance from Abbey Gate. We will continue to update.’
In a later statement, he added: ‘We can confirm that a number of US service personnel were killed in today’s complex attack at Kabul airport. A number of others are being treated for wounds.
‘We also know a number of Afghans fell victim to this heinous attack. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the loved ones and teammates of all those killed and injured.’
A Number 10 spokesman said Boris Johnson has been updated on the situation. The Prime Minister chaired a COBRA meeting this evening, while Joe Biden is in the Situation Room.
Emmanuel Macron said he may struggle to evacuate 20 buses with French citizens on board at the airport gate and says he is in negotiation with the Taliban to secure their release.
Meanwhile, Norway became the first country to officially halt its evacuation plans, with Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide telling Norwegian broadcaster TV2: “The doors at the airport are now closed and it is no longer possible to get people in.’