By Nehru Odeh
At least 60 Afghans and 12 American soldiers have been killed in two separate bombs attacks at the Kabul International airport. More than 140 people, including Afghans and American citizens were also fatally wounded in the attacks.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden, addressing the media, has said he bears responsibility for the attacks and vowed that the United States will track down those responsible and make sure they pay for the heinous crime. He called American soldiers who lost their lives in those attacks heroes.
“To those who carried out these attacks, we will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay,” he said.
ISIS in Khurasan, known as ISIS-K, has claimed responsibility for the attacks but provided no evidence to support the claim. US officials say the group was likely behind the attack but have not yet confirmed its involvement, according to a senior US official and another source briefed on initial assessments. The second source told CNN it may take a few hours before US officials are able to identify the specific individuals who carried out the suicide bombing.
These attacks are not in the least surprising, as American officials had earlier issued security alerts warning Afghans and American citizens to leave the airport, following intelligence reports that terrorists might cashed in on the desperate situation at the airport and carry out attacks. Earlier on Thursday local time, US diplomats in Kabul warned American citizens to “immediately” leave several gates into the airport, citing security threats
The deadly blasts came as the United States and other Western countries raced to complete a massive evacuation of their citizens and Afghan allies following the Taliban takeover of the country.
A US defense official had also told CNN that officials were concerned by a “very specific threat stream” involving the ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan. The risk of potential suicide attacks by IS-K led the US to establish alternative routes to Kabul airport, earlier on in the evacuation operation.
Thousands of Afghans have been gathering at the airport’s gates in recent days, trying to be evacuated. Footage posted to social media on Thursday showed chaotic scenes of crowds of people trying to help the wounded amid bodies on the ground. Photos showed apparently injured people being transported away from the scene in wheelbarrows.
An American official said one of the explosions happened “at the airport’s Abbey Gate” and “at least one other explosion happened at or near the Baron Hotel, a short distance from Abbey Gate.” Abbey Gate has become the main entry point to the airport and primary security there has been provided by US Marines. The area around that gate had been used for holding refugees after they passed through the Taliban check points outside the airport, and before they were allowed to go to the airport.
Baron Hotel was used by British soldiers and other allies as an evacuation handling center to process evacuees, before moving them up to the Abbey Gate. It is unclear whether international forces were still in the area when the explosion happened.
The US Embassy in Kabul said US citizens who were at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate of the airport “should leave immediately” in the wake of the blast. “There has been a large explosion at the airport, and there are reports of gunfire,” the security alert said. “US citizens should avoid traveling to the airport and avoid airport gates at this time,” it added.
Immediately after the explosions, gunmen opened fire on service members and civilians, McKenzie said.