This is an update on the deadly suicide bomb attack at the Kabul airport where American military forces are trying to evacuate as many people as possible.
Among those killed are 11 U.S. Marines and one Navy corpsman, according to the Pentagon.
“On behalf of the men and women of the Department of Defense, I express my deepest condolences to the loved ones and teammates of all those killed and wounded in Kabul today,” said Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III following the attack at Hamid Karzai International Airport.
The attack that followed repeated threat warnings from the United States and its allies.
“We can confirm that a number of U.S. service members were killed in today’s complex attack at Kabul airport,” said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby. “A number of others are being treated for wounds.”
The deaths marked the first U.S. military fatalities in Afghanistan since February 2020, when two American soldiers were killed in an insider attack by an Afghan soldier. The Trump administration signed a deal with the Taliban a few weeks later that included a promise that the militant group would not target U.S. troops.
U.S. officials believe the attack outside Kabul international airport was carried out by an affiliate of the Islamic State known as ISIS-K due to communications that were made by the group around the time of the attack, a U.S. official familiar with the matter told The Washington Post. A second U.S. official said the ISIS-K is the leading suspect in the attack.
According to Kirby, the first blast took place right outside the airport’s Abbey gate and the second at the nearby Baron Hotel. Scattered gunshots were heard after the blasts.
Large crowds of Afghans have been gathering daily at the airport in hopes of fleeing the country following the Taliban takeover.
“Terrorists took their lives at the very moment these troops were trying to save the lives of others,” said Austin. “We mourn their loss. We will treat their wounds. And we will support their families in what will most assuredly be devastating grief.”
“But we will not be dissuaded from the task at hand,” said Austin. “To do anything less — especially now — would dishonor the purpose and sacrifice these men and women have rendered our country and the people of Afghanistan.”
Twelve US service members were killed and 15 were injured in an attack at Kabul’s airport, the head of the US Central Command said.
More than 60 people are dead and at least 140 wounded, according to an official with Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health.
“Our hospital in Kabul was already 80% full before the explosions. Now we added extra beds to admit wounded people coming from the airport in life-threatening conditions,” said Rosella Miccio, the head of Emergency, a medical charity that helps victims of war, in a statement the group posted to Twitter.
The blasts come as the US and other countries race to evacuate people ahead of President Biden’s Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline.
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul warned Americans late Wednesday to avoid traveling to Kabul airport because of unspecified security threats and advised citizens at three airport gates to “leave immediately.” Australia and Britain also issued warnings that Afghanistan was facing a “high threat” of a terrorist attack.
Although officials did not provide more details, the Biden administration previously warned that the Islamic State poses a threat to the evacuation mission.
The warnings came as NATO allies, including Poland and Belgium, ended their evacuation flights ahead of an Aug. 31 deadline for U.S. troops to depart. Turkey, which has played a significant role in airport security, also began withdrawing its military.
A Taliban spokesman told NBC News there was “no proof” that Osama bin Laden was behind the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. The Islamist militants have pledged not to allow Afghanistan to be used as a terrorist base.
The Taliban takeover could drive a coronavirus crisis in Afghanistan as vaccinations plummet, the United Nations warned.
In response to the growing humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on Thursday launched a $24 million urgent appeal to assist hundreds of thousands of people displaced within the country over the past two months.
The agency is working to scale up operations to meet the most pressing, life-saving needs.
Priorities include shelter and non-food aid; water, sanitation and hygiene, collectively known as WASH; health, protection, and humanitarian assistance in border areas, as well as emergency livelihood support and social cohesion.
Currently, some 5.5 million Afghans are internally displaced, including more than 550,000 who were newly displaced this year, almost half of whom fled their homes since July.
“Inadequate shelter and insufficient access to sanitation and health facilities have resulted in extremely precarious living conditions for affected families,” said Stuart Simpson, IOM Afghanistan chief of mission, who added “our response is dependent on unimpeded access and guarantees for the safety of all staff.”
“Large-scale displacement driven by conflict and drought, and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, are increasing poverty and food insecurity, generating massive humanitarian and protection needs in the country,” Simpson said.
For over 40 years, Afghanistan has been devastated by a conflict that has killed over one million people, left hundreds of thousands wounded and disabled, and created over four million refugees.
The war that began in October 2001 continues to injure, kill and destroy.
The legacy of previous wars continue to remain: anti-personnel mines and unexploded ordinance continue to wound children and adults, overwhelmingly civilians.