US

How the bomb attack on Kabul airport unfolded

Early details are emerging of the ISIS-K attack that killed 12 US troops and at least 60 Afghan civilians, as the Pentagon reveals a suicide bomber slipped past a Taliban checkpoint to get close to US Marines conducting screening of evacuees at the Kabul airport.

The exact sequence of events in the attack remains unclear, with the Pentagon calling it ‘complex’ and admitting that key details about the types and sizes of the bombs, and number of attackers, remain unknown.

The two locations targeted in the bombings were the Abbey Gate of Hamid Karzai International Airport, where US troops were screening Afghans for evacuation, and the nearby Baron Hotel, where many people, including Afghans, Britons and Americans, were told to gather in recent days before heading to the airport for evacuation.   

The Pentagon first publicly confirmed the blasts shortly after 6pm Kabul time on Thursday, and later confirmed a staggering US military death toll that is the highest in one day in Afghanistan since 2011. 

General Frank McKenzie, commander of US Central Command, said that the attack on the Abbey Gate unfolded after at least one suicide bomber was able to get through initial Taliban screening points.

The Taliban maintains an outer perimeter around the airport, and is supposed to screen Afghans before they reach US-manned checkpoints. McKenzie speculated that the bomber may have slipped through due to incompetence among the Taliban militants. 

As Marines were conducting a pat-down at a secondary checkpoint, the apparent suicide bomb detonated, creating scenes of carnage that were shared on social video. 

The attack on the Abbey Gate unfolded after at least one suicide bomber was able to get through initial Taliban checkpoint

The attack on the Abbey Gate unfolded after at least one suicide bomber was able to get through initial Taliban checkpoint

The bomb at the Abbey Gate struck people standing knee-deep in a wastewater canal under the sweltering sun, throwing bodies into the fetid water

The bomb at the Abbey Gate struck people standing knee-deep in a wastewater canal under the sweltering sun, throwing bodies into the fetid water 

Taliban fighters man a checkpoint outside Abbey Gate on Wednesday. A suicide bomber was able to slip past their checkpoint

Taliban fighters man a checkpoint outside Abbey Gate on Wednesday. A suicide bomber was able to slip past their checkpoint

The bomb at the Abbey Gate struck people standing knee-deep in a wastewater canal under the sweltering sun, throwing bodies into the fetid water. 

The filthy canal was filled with bloodsoaked corpses, some being fished out and laid in heaps on the canal side while wailing civilians searched for loved ones.

Those who moments earlier had hoped to get on flights out could be seen carrying the wounded to ambulances in a daze, their own clothes darkened with blood.  

‘Men, women and children were screaming. I saw many injured people – men, women and children – being loaded into private vehicles and taken toward the hospitals,’ Zubair, a 24 year-old civil engineer, told Reuters. 

He had been trying for a nearly week to get inside the airport with a cousin who had papers authorizing him to travel to the United States, said he was 50 meters away when he witnessed the blast at the Abbey Gate.

After the explosions there was gunfire, Zubair said, but it was not immediately clear whether the shots were fired as part of the attack or the US response. 

Two separate explosions rocked Kabul with at least 12 US troops killed just hours after warnings of an 'imminent' and 'lethal' ISIS terror attack

Two separate explosions rocked Kabul with at least 12 US troops killed just hours after warnings of an ‘imminent’ and ‘lethal’ ISIS terror attack

Injured Afghans flee Kabul airport on Thursday night after two explosions and gunfire ripped through crowds

Injured Afghans flee Kabul airport on Thursday night after two explosions and gunfire ripped through crowds

Injured Afghans flee Kabul airport on Thursday night after two explosions and gunfire ripped through crowds

‘We’re still investigating the exact circumstances,’ McKenzie said in a briefing. ‘I don’t know the size of the bomb.’ 

McKenzie confirmed that the Abbey Gate attack occurred at the ‘interface point’ where US troops hand-screen Afghans, and said a suicide bomb hidden on the bomber’s body was the ‘working assumption’ for the attack. 

The information he provided contradicted initial reports, which originated from UK defense sources, that the Abbey Gate blast was caused by a car bomb. 

Details of the blast at the Baron Hotel, which is nearby but outside the zone of US control, were even thinner. 

McKenzie was unable to confirm whether the blast at the hotel was caused by a suicide bomb or a car bomb. 

The hotel is heavily fortified with concrete barriers and blast walls, and until recently had been used as a screening point for Americans and Britons. 

ISIS-K, the Islamic State’s cell in Afghanistan and sworn enemies of the Taliban, has claimed responsibility for the attack. 

Fighters claiming allegiance to Islamic State began appearing in eastern Afghanistan at the end of 2014 and have established a reputation for extreme brutality, disavowing the Taliban as too soft and liberal. 

Injured Afghans flee Kabul airport after a suicide bomber detonated an explosive outside the Baron Hotel, killing multiple people and injuring at least three US troops

Injured Afghans flee Kabul airport after a suicide bomber detonated an explosive outside the Baron Hotel, killing multiple people and injuring at least three US troops 

Afghans use a wheelbarrow to evacuate a wounded person from the scene of the blasts on Thursday

Afghans use a wheelbarrow to evacuate a wounded person from the scene of the blasts on Thursday

Smoke rises from explosion outside the airport in Kabul. The explosions went off outside Kabul's airport, where thousands of people have flocked as they try to flee the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan

Smoke rises from explosion outside the airport in Kabul. The explosions went off outside Kabul’s airport, where thousands of people have flocked as they try to flee the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan

The Taliban did not identify the attackers, but a spokesman described it as the work of ‘evil circles’ who would be suppressed once the foreign troops leave. 

Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, said that his group ‘strongly condemns the bombing of civilians’ and blamed the US for the security lapse, saying the bombings ‘took place in an area where US forces are responsible for security.’ 

In Washington, U.S. President Joe Biden spent much of the morning in the secure White House Situation Room where he was briefed on the explosions and conferred with his national security team and commanders on the ground in Kabul.

Overnight, warnings emerged from Western capitals about a threat from IS, which has seen its ranks boosted by the Taliban´s freeing of prisoners during its advance through Afghanistan.

Shortly before the attack, the acting U.S. ambassador to Kabul, Ross Wilson, said the security threat at the Kabul airport overnight was ‘clearly regarded as credible, as imminent, as compelling.’ But in an interview with ABC News, he would not give details.

Late Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy warned citizens at three airport gates to leave immediately due to an unspecified security threat. Australia, Britain and New Zealand also advised their citizens Thursday not to go to the airport.

Washington and its allies had been urging civilians to stay away from the airport on Thursday, citing the threat of an Islamic State suicide attack.

McKenzie said that the evacuation will continue despite the bomb attack. He said there was a large amount of security at the airport, and alternate routes were being used to get evacuees in. 

ISIS has claimed responsibility for Thursday's sequence of attacks. A fighter is shown in a grab from the group's Telegram account, where they are allowed to operate

ISIS has claimed responsibility for Thursday’s sequence of attacks. A fighter is shown in a grab from the group’s Telegram account, where they are allowed to operate

Medical staff bring an injured man to a hospital in an ambulance after two powerful explosions, which killed at least six people, outside the airport in Kabul on August 26, 2021

Medical staff bring an injured man to a hospital in an ambulance after two powerful explosions, which killed at least six people, outside the airport in Kabul on August 26, 2021

In addition to the many Afghans, the State Department estimated there were as many as 1,000 Americans in Afghanistan who may want help getting out.

But it remained unclear how the evacuation could move forward with reports suggesting the Kabul airport on lockdown.

‘The doors at the airport are now closed and it is no longer possible to get people in,’ Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide said on Thursday.

‘We wish we could have stayed longer and rescued everyone,’ the acting chief of Canada’s defense staff, General Wayne Eyre, told reporters.

In the past 12 days, Western countries have evacuated nearly 100,000 people, mostly Afghans who helped them. But they say many thousands more will be left behind following President Joe Biden’s order to pull out all troops by August 31.

The last few days of the airlift will mostly be used to withdraw the remaining troops. Canada and some European countries have already announced the end of their airlifts, while publicly lamenting Biden’s abrupt pullout. 

Biden has defended the decision to leave, saying U.S. forces could not stay indefinitely. But his critics say the U.S. force, which once numbered more than 100,000, had been reduced in recent years to just a few thousand troops, no longer involved in fighting on the ground and mainly confined to an air base.  

The U.S. troops killed on Thursday were the first to die in action in Afghanistan in 18 months. It marked the highest single-day death toll for US forces in the country since 2011.

The two-decade war has cost 1,909 US military lives in combat. 


Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button