Folks stranded after bomb assault at Kabul airport
Dozens of people were killed and injured on Thursday following the bombing of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. Amid the violence, many are questioning the US government’s ability to evacuate all US citizens and Afghan allies from the beleaguered country by President Joe Biden’s withdrawal deadline on August 31.
Thirteen US soldiers and at least 60 Afghan civilians – including children – were killed when two suicide bombers and gunmen attacked crowds trying to escape the Taliban’s resurgence in the country. One survivor said the attack was “like the end of the world”.
“It was like someone was pulling the floor from under my feet; for a moment I thought my eardrum had burst and I lost my hearing,” the man, who was not identified for fear of reprisals, told Insider. “It is not possible to see the end of the world in this life, but today I saw the end of the world, I saw it with my own eyes.”
The bombing came hours after Western officials warned of a major attack on the airport. The terrorist group “Islamic State” ISIS-K owed the bomb attacks.
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More:What is ISIS-K? Terrorist group “Islamic State” allegedly carried out attacks in Kabul, in which 12 US soldiers were killed
The terrorist group is a sworn enemy of the militant Islamic group Taliban. Zabihullah Mujahid, spokesman for the Taliban, denied that an attack was imminent on Thursday. But prior to the bombing, Taliban fighters attempted to evict people by spraying water cannons on people gathered near an airport gate. Tear gas canisters were also shot in crowds.
The scene at the airport is one of panic and chaos as US forces continue evacuation procedures. The injured were covered in blood by volunteers and carried away on stretchers – even in wheelbarrows – dazed. The air over the airfield was thick and thick when sirens filled the air after the explosion.
A video on Twitter appeared to show bodies floating in a canal and piled on a sidewalk near an airport entrance.
General Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, said about 5,000 people were waiting at the airfield to be flown out of the country and evacuations would not slow down after the attack.
About 1,000 US citizens are said to be still in Afghanistan. Heavy security measures and roadblocks by the Taliban make airport access a challenge. And entry is almost impossible as US forces have closed all gates because of the attack.
After the explosion, Taliban fighters tried pipes and cables to clean up the crowds that had gathered earlier in the day. A member of the group said the blast was “against the Americans,” the New York Times reported.
“The situation is out of control. There are many dead on the ground there, ”said the fighter, who refused to give his name.
Satellite imagery shows traffic creaking just outside the airport and a crowd trying to enter the walled airfield through a single entrance.
The US State Department only allows special immigrant visa applicants, embassy staff, and Afghans who have helped the US armed forces through the gates and on a flight. Everyone else will be left behind, according to a US official.
More:Graphics and satellite images show how the complex and dangerous evacuation from Kabul Airport works
The Taliban said Afghan citizens were allowed to leave the country on commercial flights a week after the August 31 deadline, but it is not clear which airlines would serve a militant-operated airport.
Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Turkish officials are in talks with the Taliban to enable Turkish civilian experts to operate the airport.
President Biden promised Thursday that he would hunt down those responsible for the attack that killed 13 Americans. The soldiers killed were the first victims in Afghanistan since February 2020.
“We are not forgiven. We will not be forgotten. We’ll hunt you down and make you pay, ”said Biden.
Contribution: The Associated Press
Contact Chelsey Cox on Twitter at @therealco.