At least 90 people killed, 150 others injured, with the Taliban vowing to ensure such attacks are prevented in future
At least 90 people were killed—including 13 U.S. military soldiers—and 150 others injured after two suicide bombers and gunmen on Thursday targeted Afghans who had gathered near Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport in a bid to secure an airlift out of the country.
The attack was claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan Province, or Daesh, which said one of the suicide bombers had targeted “translators and collaborators with the American army.”
A day earlier, the intelligence services of several Western states, including the U.S. and the U.K., had warned of a terror threat at the Kabul airport, issuing advisories to their citizens to avoid traveling to the location. However, desperate Afghans hoping to leave Afghanistan under Taliban rule before Aug. 31 when evacuations are scheduled to end continued to try and secure an exit from the war-torn state, leaving them vulnerable to the threat.
Video taken after the attack showed corpses in a sewage canal by the airport fence, some being fished out and laid in heaps while wailing civilians searched for loved ones. Authorities on Friday said that at least 77 Afghan civilians and 13 U.S. servicemen were killed in the attacks, warning that several of the injured were in critical condition and the death toll could rise.
A Taliban official claimed at least 28 members of the group had been killed in the attack. “We have lost more people than the Americans in the airport blast,” he said, adding the Taliban was “not responsible for the chaotic evacuation plan prepared by foreign nations.”
The U.S. Defense Department, in a statement, said that in addition to the 13 American troops killed, 18 others had been wounded. The American casualties are reportedly the most U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan in a single incident since 30 personnel died when a helicopter was shot down in 2011. Of the deceased, said Marine Corps spokesman Major Jim Stenger, 10 were Marines, while several had also been wounded. “We mourn the loss of these Marines and pray for their families,” he added.
While U.S. forces control the airport, its outer perimeter is under Taliban control, and the group has been responsible for allowing passage into the airport of thousands of people still awaiting a chance to flee Taliban rule. In light of the attacks, head of U.S. CENTCOM Gen. Frank McKenzie said American commanders were now on alert for more threats from Daesh, including the potential of rockets or vehicle-borne bombs.
“We’re doing everything we can to be prepared,” he said, adding that some intelligence was also being shared with the Taliban and that he believed “some attacks have been thwarted by them.” A Taliban spokesman, likewise, said they would strengthen security outside the airport and hoped to thwart any such attacks in future.
U.S. President Joe Biden, in a speech, said he had ordered the Pentagon to plan retaliatory strikes against Daesh. “We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay,” he said.
Despite the attacks, U.S. authorities have said, evacuations would continue to secure safe passage for around 1,000 U.S. citizens still reportedly in Afghanistan. However, there are signs of an acceleration of the airlift efforts, with the Taliban announcing that several explosions heard overnight were U.S. troops destroying their own equipment before their evacuation.
Pakistan, in a statement, condemned the terrorist attack at Kabul airport and extended its condolences to the bereaved families. “Pakistan strongly condemns the heinous terrorist attack at Kabul airport, which reportedly resulted in loss of precious lives, including children. We condemn terrorism in all forms and manifestations, convey our condolences to bereaved families and pray for early recovery of the injured,” read the missive issued by the Foreign Office.