Suicide Bombings Blast Kabul, Killing American Service Members and Civilians
KABUL, Afghanistan — A pair of suicide bombings near the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, which happened on Thursday morning, killed civilians and American personnel, U.S. officials say.
American officials suspect an affiliate group of the Islamic State operating in Afghanistan, ISIS- K, of responsibility for the bombings. They describe the group as an enemy of the Taliban as well as the U.S.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby confirmed in a statement released on Twitter that one blast occurred at Abbey Gate, a primary entrance to Kabul’s airport, and another occurred close by, near the Baron Hotel.
The airport, just a few miles from Kabul’s city center, is the site of efforts to evacuate American citizens and imperiled Afghans from the country before the looming Aug. 31 American troop withdrawal deadline.
At least 22 people were killed and dozens wounded.
In a written statement issued on Thursday afternoon, Kirby said that “a number of U.S. service members were killed in today’s complex attack at Kabul airport,” adding that others were being treated for wounds and that “a number of Afghans fell victim to this heinous attack.”
The dead include 11 Marines and one Navy medic, according to two U.S. officials. They said another 12 service members were wounded and warned the toll could grow.
Emergency, an Italian charity that operates hospitals in Afghanistan, said it had received at least 60 patients wounded in the airport attack, in addition to 10 who were dead when they arrived.
It’s unclear exactly how this will impact the evacuation efforts.
“Our priority remains to evacuate as many people to safety as quickly as possible,” Secretary-General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg said on Twitter.
“I strongly condemn this act of terrorism and it must be clear to the world that the terrorists who perpetrated this will be sought and brought to justice,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D.-NY, said in a statement.
Earlier in the week, President Biden had reaffirmed the administration’s commitment to leaving Afghanistan in front of leaders from the G7, the United Nations, NATO, and the European Union.
In a briefing about the meeting, Biden said that he’d received warnings about a possible attack from ISIS-K which he described as “the sworn enemy of the Taliban.”
The New York Times has reported that the U.S. Marines guarding Abbey Gate had been warned of an imminent terror threat but had continued to process people trying to get out.
Prior to the explosions, the White House had reported that 13,400 people were evacuated from Afghanistan between Wednesday morning and Thursday morning, with about 8,300 people having been airlifted by coalition aircraft from Kabul.
An update from U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Wednesday said that around 82,300 people have been safely evacuated from Kabul since August 14th, including 4,500 U.S. passport holders. Of that 82,300, about 45-46% have been women and children, Blinken said.
The secretary also commented that these figures are fast-changing, “fluid.”
Tracking the precise number of Americans still in the region is difficult, especially since registration with American embassies is voluntary and the counts are complex, Blinken said.
During Wednesday’s briefing, Blinken had said that the department had “direct contact” with 500 American citizens and had given instructions on how to get to the airport, and it was trying to reach an additional 1,000 people who may be Americans trying to leave.
However, those numbers do not include American green card holders or applicants for the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program.
The Taliban has “strongly condemned” the bombings, according to reporting.