There is no official information if there are victims or if it was a terrorist attack so far, but there are already several reports of several deaths and injuries.
A Taliban source told Reuters news agency that at least 13 people had died, including children. Al Jazeera television network reports at least 10 dead, also citing a Taliban source. “The Wall Street Journal” says US Marines were wounded.
Two US government sources told Reuters the Kabul explosion appears to have been a suicide bombing.
A Pentagon spokesman confirmed the explosion but gave no further details on what happened. “We can confirm an explosion outside Kabul airport. The victims are not clear at this point,” said John Kirby. “We will provide additional details when we can.”
Turkey’s Ministry of Defense said that two separate explosions had occurred at the site and that there had been no damage to Turkish troops in the area.
The President of the United States, Joe Biden, was informed about the explosion during a meeting with security officials about the situation in Afghanistan, according to Reuters.
Hamid Karzai International Airport is the country’s only exit point for thousands of foreigners and Afghans desperately trying to board the withdrawal flights organized by Western countries (see below).
Aug. 16 satellite image shows people on the runway at Kabul International Airport, Afghanistan’s capital — Photo: Satellite Image 2021 Maxar Technologies via Reuters
‘Imminent’ risk of attack
Earlier, the United States, United Kingdom and Australia warned of the risk of an “imminent” attack at the site and asked their citizens to immediately leave the airport area due to a terrorist threat (see the video below).
“The information obtained over the week is increasingly serious and refers to an imminent and serious threat,” British Secretary of State for the Armed Forces, James Heappey, earlier said. “It’s a very serious threat, very imminent.”
Among the threats were a possible attack by the Islamic State (see more at the end of the text).
Afghanistan: even with terrorist threat, crowd remains at Kabul airport
Hamid Karzai International Airport is the country’s only gateway for thousands of foreigners and Afghans desperately trying to board the withdrawal flights organized by Western countries.
Nearly 90,000 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan since the Taliban regained power on Aug. 15, but crowds still swarm in and around the site, including in ditches. (see the video below).
According to The New York Times, at least 250,000 Afghans who worked for the US have not yet been removed from the country (and the current evacuation rate is not enough to evacuate everyone by the 31st).
VIDEO: People in ditch try to board one of the planes leaving Kabul, Afghanistan
The estimate is based on reports on Afghan employment that are published annually by the US Department of Defense reviewed by the Association of Allies in Wartime (a group that advocates for Afghans who worked for the US) and researchers at American University.
The US and allied forces have until Tuesday (31) to leave the country — a date announced by US President Joe Biden in early July.
Allies pressured the US to delay the final exit from Afghanistan, to allow all foreigners and Afghans under its protection to leave, but Biden denied the request. The Taliban had repeatedly said that it would not accept an extension of the deadline.
Threat from the Islamic State
Among the reasons mentioned by Biden was the “acute” terrorist threat from the regional wing of the Islamic State terrorist group, responsible for some of the most violent attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan in recent years.
The terrorist group has killed civilians in both countries in mosques, shrines, squares and even hospitals, as well as carrying out attacks against Muslims from wards it considers heretics, including Shiites.
“Every day, operations pose an additional risk to our troops,” the US president said, citing the likelihood of an Islamic State attack in Kabul. “The Taliban’s number 1 enemy targets the airport to attack US and Allied forces as well as innocent civilians.”
While the Islamic State and the Taliban are radical Sunnis, the two extremist groups are rivals.
The Islamic State criticized the US-Taliban peace agreement signed in 2020, which established guidelines for the withdrawal of foreign troops, and accused the Taliban of abandoning the jihadist cause.