Afghanistan

Twin blasts rock Kabul airport

Published : August 27, 2021 20:42 IST

Witnesses reported hearing an explosion and gunfire at the airport. Photo: Wali Sabawoon/AP/picture alliance

Kabul's airport has been hit by twin blasts, leaving dozens of Afghan civilians and at least 12 U.S. soldiers dead.

Two explosions outside Kabul's airport injured and killed at least 73 people, including 60 civilians, on August 26.

General Kenneth McKenzie, the Commander of U.S. Central Command, told a briefing at the Pentagon that 13 U.S. service members were killed and 15 were injured in the suicide bombings. McKenzie said the U.S. military is treating the wounded as well as Afghan civilians. "We are prepared to continue the mission," McKenzie said.

President Joe Biden: 'America will not be intimidated'

In a White House address on August 26, President Joe Biden said the U.S. soldiers who died in the blasts gave their lives "in service of liberty and service of America." He vowed to continue evacuations from Kabul: "America will not be intimidated."

"We will not be deterred by terrorists. We will not let them stop our mission," the president added.

The commander-in-chief vowed revenge on those behind the attack. "I have also ordered my commanders to develop operational plans to strike ISIS leadership, assets and facilities," Biden said, after the "Islamic State" (IS) claimed responsibility for the blasts.

The twin blasts came after the U.S. warned of a terror threat against the airport amid its ongoing evacuation and advised its citizens against travel to the airport. Intelligence warnings pointed towards the "Islamic State" (IS). IS later claimed responsibility for the attack in a post confirmed by the SITE intelligence group which monitors violent jihadist propaganda.

What happened during the blasts?

One explosion hit outside Hamid Karzai International Airport's Abbey Gate, and another occurred outside the nearby Baron Hotel. The U.S. embassy issued an alert, saying there had also been reports of gunfire.

A Taliban official said that between 13 and 20 people were killed in the attacks, however footage from the scene and reports show a much higher death toll. Emergency NGO, an Italian humanitarian organization, reported that 60 people arrived at their Kabul Surgical Center with six reportedly dead upon arrival.

Journalist Ali Latifi in Kabul told DW, "We keep seeing ambulances and cars bringing the injured and we see children come in injured. It seems right now that it really is just local residents directing traffic and making sure that the injured can make it into the hospital." He added, "We don't really see much of a Taliban presence right now."

There was little security presence in the area where the suicide bombings took place, Kabul resident Abdul Matin Amiri told DW. "There was no security at all," Amiri said. "I got there with a lot of luggage and bags with me [so] it means everybody could go there easily [and] carry any kind of explosive."

Taliban condemns attack, Pentagon prepared for action

On Twitter, a Taliban spokesman said the terror group that seized control of Afghanistan "strongly condemns the bombing of civilians at the Kabul airport," while a Taliban official later told Turkey's HaberTurk TV that "because of the presence of foreign forces that such attacks take place."

General McKenzie vowed retaliation over the attack. "We are working very hard right now to determine attribution, to determine who is associated with this cowardly attack, and we're prepared to take action against them," McKenzie said.

German officials react

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the attack "especially despicable" and said her thoughts are with the victims and their loved ones. Germany's foreign minister Heiko Maas said in Berlin: "We currently have no information about German victims."

German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said the attacks highlighted that a continuation of its evacuations was not possible. In a series of posts of Twitter, she wrote: "The attacks we saw this afternoon have made clear that an extension of the operation in Kabul was not possible. The security situation on the ground and the Taliban's decision not to tolerate an extension beyond Aug. 31, made it impossible."

She said all German troops had now left Afghanistan. "I am glad and relieved that our soldiers who carried out this dangerous mission have just left the Afghan airspace safely," Kramp-Karrenbauer wrote. She added, "I would particularly like to thank our American friends, without whose protection this operation would not have been possible."

U.K., France condemn attack

Several other European leaders responded to the Kabul airport blasts. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the attack "barbaric" but vowed to continue evacuations from Kabul. French President Emmanuel Macron condemned the attacks "with the utmost firmness" and expressed condolences to the families of the victims.

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called for an emergency meeting of the permanent members of the Security Council in response to the blasts.

ar, wd/aw, wmr (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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