AFGHANISTAN – Two explosions followed by shootings took place on Thursday (August 26th) near Kabul airport, the Pentagon said, without being able to establish a precise toll immediately. Nearly five hours after the tragedy, the US Department of Defense communicated an initial assessment of 12 soldiers killed, without saying more about the total number of victims.
Regarding the death toll, the Reuters news agency quickly cited a death toll of 13, citing a source within the Taliban to do so. The AFP, for its part, spoke of “at least five dead and ten injured”.
A little later, the main spokesman of the Taliban raised this figure to the AFP by speaking of 13 to 20 dead and 52 injured. “Our initial information shows that between 13 and 20 people were killed, and 52 injured in the explosions at Kabul airport,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, who had previously said on Twitter “strongly condemn” the attacks which took place in an area under American “responsibility”.
A new explosion rocked the Afghan capital Kabul this Thursday around midnight, after those in the afternoon, according to AFP journalists.
Taliban regime spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said shortly after on Twitter that the explosion was not due to an attack but to destruction of equipment by the US military at the airport, which the military said did not immediately confirm.
Several American soldiers were killed and wounded in the attack which struck Thursday the accesses of the airport of Kabul, also said the spokesman of the Pentagon. During a press conference, it was announced that 12 US soldiers (11 Marines and a Navy medic) had been killed, and 15 wounded. As of February 2020, no more soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan.
BREAKING: The attacks in Kabul killed at least 12 U.S. service members and injured 15, in addition to an unspecified number of Afghan civilians, Pentagon confirms https://t.co/mxRpfPpgkFpic.twitter.com/1R7HXe2Ur7
The Pentagon has also said it expects such attacks to continue, which would not prevent the US military from continuing with evacuations. In fact, the Americans directly accused the Islamic State terrorist organization of being responsible for the attack, threatening them with reprisals in the event of further attacks.
“Two jihadists considered to belong to IS blew themselves up at Abbey Gate, followed by armed IS jihadists who fired on civilians and soldiers,” said General Kenneth McKenzie, head of the central command. American in charge of Afghanistan.
On the French side, Ambassador David Martinon said that no “soldier, police or diplomat had been engaged” in the area of the blasts.
Thought for the victims. To our relatives: no French soldier, policeman or diplomat had been hired today at Abbey Gate. #safe
Emmanuel Macron condemned “with the greatest firmness the terrorist attacks”. In a statement, he expresses “his condolences to the families of the American and Afghan victims, sends his support to the wounded, and salutes the heroism of those who are on the ground to carry out the evacuation operations”, before promise that “France will bring them to an end and maintain long-term humanitarian and protection action for threatened Afghans”.
There, witnesses told Agence France Press of the “total panic” that gripped the crowd after the explosions, which occurred as the sun began to set over the Afghan capital. Heavy smoke billowed into the air, as men, women and children ran in all directions to get away from the blast scene.
Photos posted on social media showed bloody people sheltered on wheelbarrows, or a child gripping the arm of a man with a head injury.
“It was a huge explosion, in the middle of the crowd waiting in front of one of the airport gates”, where people evacuated by the French and the British had passed in particular in recent days, a witness told AFP. , Milad. “There are a lot of dead and wounded”, says the one who notably saw “bodies and human fragments thrown” around.
“When people heard the explosion, it was panic. The Taliban then fired in the air to disperse the people waiting outside the door, ”another witness told AFP, who saw“ a man running with an injured baby in his arms ”.
According to a military source corroborated by John Kirby, the first explosion occurred near Abbey Gate, one of three access points to the airport where thousands of Afghans have been thronging for 12 days anxious to leave. the country now in the hands of the Taliban. The second happened near the Baron Hotel, very close to Abbey Gate. This hotel had notably been used in recent days to bring together American citizens with a view to their extraction from the country.
We can confirm that the explosion at the Abbey Gate was the result of a complex attack that resulted in a number of US & 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.
American and allied officials had in recent days reported credible threats of suicide bombings around Kabul airport where a gigantic airlift has been organized since August 14.
Western warnings, however, did not deter many Afghans from continuing to besiege the airport before the explosion. Among the candidates for exile are many urban and educated Afghans, who fear that the Islamists will establish the same kind of fundamentalist and brutal regime as when they were in power between 1996 and 2001.
Minutes before the first explosion, John Kirby had denied reports that evacuations from Afghanistan could end earlier than expected due to the threats. “We will continue to evacuate as many people as possible until the end of the mission,” he tweeted. “The Kabul evacuation operations are not going to end in 36 hours,” he said.
Evacuation operations will continue despite the “barbaric” attacks outside Kabul airport, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also announced. For his part, Emmanuel Macron indicated that France would try to evacuate still “several hundred” Afghans from Kabul, adding that Paris was doing “the maximum” to get there, but without guarantee due to the security situation “extremely tense ”at the airport.
The US soldiers, who secure the airport in the Afghan capital, must have left Afghanistan by Tuesday, August 31, the deadline for their total withdrawal set and confirmed by President Joe Biden. The withdrawal, to be completed at that time, will have to start earlier, making the evacuations of foreigners and Afghans considered endangered since the Taliban seized power in mid-August more complex.
The pace of departures, which had picked up steadily in recent days, began to slow down. According to a report from the White House Thursday morning, 13,400 people have been evacuated over the past 24 hours (5,100 on board 17 US military planes and 8,300 on 74 coalition planes). Since the airlift began on August 14, the United States has helped evacuate approximately 95,700 people.
Many allied countries of the United States have announced the imminent end of their own operations. Some, like Canada, have already stopped their evacuations.
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