Deadly explosion near Kabul airport

There has been a large explosion at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, where evacuation is being conducted and there are reports of ongoing gunfire in the surrounding area. Details are scarce. Here’s what we know at this point.

A hospital in Kabul says 30 people wounded in two explosions near Kabul’s international airport arrived for treatment. Of those, six were dead on arrival.

The suspected suicide bomb that exploded outside Kabul airport on Thursday, killing at least 13 people including children, according to Taliban officials, confirmed expectations of the United States and allies who urged Afghans to leave the area because of a threat by Islamic State.

Defense officials have been alarmed in recent days by threats at Hamid Karzai International Airport by ISIS-K, terrorists who are sworn enemies of the Taliban.

According to a U.S. official, three U.S. Marines were wounded in the explosion at the airport gate. There may be at least a dozen people injured; their nationalities are not known right now. At least 10 people have been killed and at least 15 are injured by suicide bombers in Afghanistan, according to other reports.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul says the blast took place at the “Abbey Gate” of the airport. It’s one of the entrances to the airport that the embassy had specifically asked U.S. citizens to avoid due to a heightened fears of an attack.

The embassy statement says there are reports of ongoing gunfire. It adds that U.S. citizens “should avoid traveling to the airport and avoid airport gates at this time.”

The embassy’s latest security alert is here.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby confirmed reports of an explosion outside of the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Thursday.

The Taliban said Tuesday that the group will not allow Afghan nationals to leave the country and opposes an extension of evacuation flights.

President Joe Biden has previously said he may consider extending the departure date past Aug. 31 but has yet to do so.

Injured people arrive at a hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan August 26, 2021

More than 5,000 U.S. troops are currently on the ground in Kabul assisting with evacuation efforts.

Military installations in the U.S. European Command are now ready to accept thousands of evacuees from Afghanistan at a time, the commander of Eucom said.

Across Europe, eight military installations in four nations stand ready to take on as many as 25,000 evacuees coming out of Afghanistan, Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters said during a briefing yesterday at the Pentagon.

The eight locations include Ramstein Air Base, Rhine Ordnance Barracks, Spangdahlem Air Base, U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr, and U.S. Army Garrison Hohenfels, in Germany; as well as Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy; Naval Station Rota, Spain; and Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo.

Right now, it’s Ramstein and Sigonella that have been receiving evacuees, Wolters said. Ramstein alone can house up to 12,000 evacuees at a time. The German installation has received 55 incoming flights, and currently has more than 5,700 evacuees on site. The general also said that more than 1,600 evacuees have departed Ramstein for the United States. In Italy, there are about 662 evacuees awaiting onward movement.

“This is a whole-of-government, whole-of-nation, whole-of-partner, whole-of-ally process,” he said. “The trust and transparency that we’ve constructed over the course of the last several decades, in particular with our NATO allies and partners, has paid huge dividends with respect to the effectiveness of this operation.”

Naval Air Station Sigonella Command Master Chief Anna Wood assists an Afghanistan evacuee getting off of a U.S. Air Force KC-10 Extender at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Aug. 22, 2021. NAS Sigonella is currently supporting the Department of Defense mission to facilitate the safe departure and relocation of U.S. citizens, Special Immigration Visa recipients, and vulnerable Afghan populations from Afghanistan. NAS Sigonella’s strategic location enables U.S, allied, and partner nation forces to deploy and respond as required to ensure security and stability in Europe, Africa, and Central Command. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. William Chockey)

French President Emmanuel Macron, while visiting Ireland when suspected suicide bombs exploded outside the airport and killed at least 13 people, said the situation in Afghanistan has profoundly deteriorated.

A member of Afghanistan’s all-female robotics team who has been flown to safety hopes the world will not forget her country as the United States and its allies rush to complete evacuations of their nationals and vulnerable Afghans.

Ayda Haydarpoura, a member of an all-girls robotics team, was evacuated last week from Afghanistan

Ayda Haydarpoura, a member of an Afghan all-girls robotics team who were evacuated last week from Afghanistan, was interviewed by western reporters in Doha, Qatar August 25, 2021.

Haydarpour, 17, is one of nine members of the team whose robots have won international awards now in the Qatari capital Doha. Other team members went to Mexico, while some remained in Afghanistan.

“I want to say never leave the people of Afghanistan alone. Support them and help them. They have lot of dreams. They have lot of goals,” the aspiring software engineer told Reuters.

Thousands of Afghans have fled since the collapse of the United States-backed government and takeover of the capital Kabul by the Taliban on Aug 15, fearing reprisals and repression by the Islamist militants, especially against women.

“We left everything in Afghanistan. We had dreams. We left our families. We left our friends. We left all of our relatives and without saying any goodbye to them,” Haydarpour said.

The robotics team members, some as young as 14, were born in the years after the Taliban’s 1996-2001 rule when women were banned from studying or working. The group now says it will respect women’s rights under Islam, but the proclamations have been met with doubt.

Haydarpour said her team, which captivated global media attention in 2017 when they took part in the International Robotics Olympics in the United States, proved the potential that Afghan girls have.

“You should believe that and help support the people who are still in Afghanistan,” she said.

Although their future is now uncertain, the robotics team will continue their education outside Afghanistan and is preparing for an online robotics competition next month.

“We left Afghanistan for our education and one day we will come back and we will serve our people and our country,” said another team member Somaya Faruqi, 18.

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