Kabul explosions at the Hamid Karzai International Kabul Airport this morning disrupted evacuation efforts. 12 U.S. service members were killed in the blast, and 15 more were injured. According to an Afghan public health official, 60 people were killed and at least 140 were injured.
The explosion occurred outside the Abbey entry gate of the Kabul airport, with CNN reporting that three officials have told them that it was a suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest – it wasn’t clear what the motive of the attack was or if the suicide bomber was part of a terrorist organization.
The gate was one of the only entrances to the airport, making it a high-traffic area with heavily congested crowds of Afghans hoping to gain access. U.S. officials have asked those still near the gate to evacuate immediately.
A nearby emergency room, according to The New York Times, said that at least 30 people are being treated, with more to come.
“There are reports of gunfire,” a security alert in the area warned. “U.S. citizens should avoid traveling to the airport and avoid airport gates at this time.”
Another explosion went off at the Baron Hotel, not too far from the Abbey Gate, shorty after the first blast.
“People were fleeing and the Taliban forced us to leave the area. Americans were firing to disperse people,” a shopkeeper named Fahim told The New York Times reporters. He said that he saw “two big explosions” at the airport, with a number of people killed and wounded. Another eyewitness said that “there were bodies everywhere, people were running.”
“We can confirm that the explosion at the Abbey Gate was the result of a complex attack that resulted in a number of U.S. & civilian casualties,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby updated. “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.”
According to CNBC, the evacuation efforts have been very difficult, with only 13,400 safely evacuated in the last 24 hours. Since evacuations began on Aug 14, roughly 95,700 people have been airlifted out of the country, including 4,500 Americans.
On Tuesday, the Taliban said that they would no longer allow Afghan nationals to leave the country, or any Afghans at all past the deadline. Afghanistan’s Prime Minister Ashraf Ghani fled the country the day of the attack.
“We are not in favor of allowing Afghans to leave,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told the press on Tuesday. “They [the Americans] have the opportunity, they have all the resources, they can take all the people that belong to them, but we are not going to allow Afghans to leave and we will not extend the deadline.”
According to a White House official, President Joe Biden has already been briefed about the explosion. The U.S. Military had been working to evacuate American and at-risk Afghan citizens out of the country by the President’s Aug 31 deadline to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
“Every day we’re on the ground is another day we know that ISIS-K is seeking to target the airport and attack both U.S. and allied forces and innocent civilians,” Biden said, warning of the risks of a prolonged stay in Afghanistan.
“Our hearts go out to the brave Afghan men and women who are now at risk,” Biden said after the Taliban takeover. “We are working to evacuate thousands of those who helped our cause and their families.”