At least 15 dead in Kabul blasts; Pentagon confirms US service members killed
Kabul, Aug 26 (EFE).- At least 15 died and 60 others were injured in two explosions Thursday outside the airport in Kabul, where thousands of Afghan citizens had gathered in a bid to leave the country aboard international evacuation flights.
The spokesman for the United States Defense Department, meanwhile, confirmed that “a number of” American service members perished in the blasts.
Afghan local media reported, citing hospital sources, that “at least 15 people” died and 60 were injured, while some local TV networks showed images of numerous dead bodies at the site of the explosions.
The blasts occurred amid attempts by foreign nations to evacuate their citizens from Afghanistan after this month’s Taliban takeover.
The Taliban’s main spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said for his part that 50 people were injured and taken to nearby hospitals after the explosions, the first of which occurred at 6.24 pm.
The blasts constitute the first attacks in Kabul since the Taliban overran the capital with virtually no resistance and took full control of the country on Aug. 15, despite US President Joe Biden’s assurances that it was highly unlikely that Islamic fundamentalist group would be able to do so after the US withdrawal.
At the moment, it is unclear who the perpetrators of the attacks were.
In a message on Twitter, US Defense Department spokesman John Kirby said one explosion occurred near an entrance to the Hamid Karzai International Airport known as Abbey Gate, adding that it was the result of a “complex attack that resulted in a number of US and civilian casualties.”
“We can also confirm at least one other explosion at or near the Baron Hotel, a short distance from Abbey Gate. We will continue to update,” Kirby tweeted.
The Pentagon press secretary later released a statement confirming that “a number of US service members were killed in today’s complex attack at Kabul’s airport. A number of others are being treated for wounds.”
The Italian medical non-governmental organization Emergency, which runs a hospital in Kabul, had said earlier on Twitter that more than 10 people died and 60 others were wounded in the two explosions outside the Kabul airport.
“Around 60 patients wounded in airport attack have arrived at our #Kabul Surgical Centre so far,” that NGO said.
Citing three US officials, CNN reported that the blast may have been a suicide attack and that there was an exchange of gunfire after the explosion near Abbey Gate.
That network said Biden had been informed of the explosion and was following the situation with his team from the White House’s Situation Room. After the blasts, Biden postponed a scheduled meeting on Thursday with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
Several countries are evacuating their citizens, while Afghans who face the risk of a Taliban backlash are desperately trying to flee the country ahead of the Aug. 31 deadline for foreign troops to withdraw from the country.
About 5,400 American soldiers are at the Kabul airport to manage security as the US evacuates its citizens and the Afghans who worked with Washington in the past 20 years of war.
The US Embassy in Kabul on Wednesday urged American citizens not to go to the airport due to credible “security threats.”
On Thursday, it issued a security alert that said there had been a “large explosion at the airport, and there are reports of gunfire.”
“US citizens should avoid traveling to the airport and avoid airport gates at this time. US citizens who are at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately,” the embassy said.
On Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned of growing security threats in Afghanistan as the days go by since the Taliban takeover.