Thirteen US serviceman have been killed and 18 injured in twin bomb attacks outside Kabul airport today, while reports suggest explosions across the city have continued into the night.
Jihadist splinter group ISIS-K are believed to be behind the two earlier blasts outside the gates of Kabul airport, where thousands of Afghans have been awaiting for evacuation by Western forces.
Senior health officials in Kabul say the death toll could be as high as 90, with 150 more people believed to be injured.
General Kenneth F. McKenzie, the Head of U.S. Central Command, tonight confirmed 12 US soldiers have died and at least 15 have been injured in attacks. They include 12 US marines and a Navy medic. It is the deadliest attack against US Forces in 10 years.
Speaking at a press conference in the US tonight, General McKenzie told reporters: ‘As you know, two suicide bombers, assessed to be ISIS fighters, detonated in the vicinity of the Abbey Gate at the airport and in the vicinity of the Baron Hotel.
Islamic State claim responsibility for deadly Kabul airport attacks and post picture of alleged suicide-bomber on social media site
By Charlotte Mitchell for MailOnline
Jihadist group Islamic State (IS) have tonight claimed responsibility for the devastating twin attacks that struck Kabul, killing 12 US troops and at least 60 Afghan civilians.
The group posted a statement claiming responsibility from their Telegram account on Thursday, following the attacks earlier today.
The two explosions, one of which hit Kabul airport, the other a nearby hotel, had been blamed on ISIS-K, a regional affiliate of the so-called Islamic State.
The splinter group operates in parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Abdul Rehman Al-Loghri of ISIS-K was allegedly the suicide bomber responsible for one of the blasts, according to a twitter post.
Abdul Rehman Al-Loghri of ISIS-K was allegedly the suicide bomber responsible for one of the blasts, according to a twitter post
The blasts killed at least 90 people, including 12 US servicemen, and injured more than 150 others.
Founded in 2015, ISIS-K followers aim to establish an Islamic caliphate across Khorasan (hence the initial ‘K’) – a historic region covering Pakistan and Afghanistan along with parts of Central Asia.
Prior to Thursday’s attacks, the US had warned that the group would likely target the thousands of people gathering at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport as they attempt to flee the country following the Taliban takeover on August 15 and before the August 31 deadline for the withdrawal of US and NATO forces.
The organisation has already carried out roughly 100 attacks against civilian targets and another 250 involving US, Afghan or Pakistani security services, most of them chronicled via mobile phone videos then broadcast online.
In May, ISIS-K killed at least 68 Afghans and injured another 165 when they detonated three car bombs outside the Syed Al-Shahda school for girls in Kabul.
The vast majority of the victims were young pupils the Islamist group regard as legitimate targets because they do not believe women and girls should be educated.
‘The attack on the Abbey Gate was followed by an attack by ISIS gunmen, who opened fire on civilian and US forces.
‘At this time, we know that 12 US service members have been killed in the attack and another 15 have been injured. A number of Afghan civilians were also killed or injured.’
It was later revealed that a further US service member had died, bringing the US troop death count to 13.
Meanwhile, General McKenzie, under questioning from reporters, also said it was being ‘assumed’ by US officials that one of the suicide-bombers was being searched to go through the airport gates when he detonated his device.
In a stark warning, he also said the US believed Kabul could face more attacks in the near future, saying: ‘We believe it is their desire to continue these attacks and we expect those attacks to continue and we’re doing everything we can to be prepared for those attacks’.
UK defence officials say they do not believe any British troops or Government officials have been killed in the attacks, which Islamic State (IS) have tonight claimed responsibility for.
Officials had earlier said splinter group ISIS-K – a regional offshoot of IS – were behind the attacks. IS today made the claim via a Telegram post, in which they included a picture of one of the alleged suicide bombers.
It comes amid reports of a third blast and fourth blast in Kabul tonight. Reporters on the ground say the blast were heard near to the airport this evening, while social media reports suggest the third explosion may have been a landmine triggered by a Taliban vehicle.
No details have yet been released, though US officials say they have also received reports of further explosions. Local news outlets suggested ‘several’ further explosions have been heard in Kabul today.
However a Taliban spokesperson tonight said these came from US troops destroying ammunition near to the airport – a move which suggests American forces may soon be ready to clear out of Kabul.
The two earlier bombings – which come after warnings by US and UK officials of an ‘imminent’ terror attack – could now spark an immediate end to the West’s frantic evacuation efforts in Afghanistan.
NATO countries, including Denmark, have already stopped their evacuation efforts this evening, while the gates to the airport have now been sealed by US troops in the aftermath.
However Boris Johnson, who this evening chaired an emergency COBRA meeting at Downing Street, insisted the UK will continue its evacuation flights.
UK officials earlier today said there were a dozen evacuation flights still scheduled to leave Kabul. The US also confirmed it plans to continue with its evacuations.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab tonight offered his condolences to the US over the deaths of 12 service members.
‘They paid the ultimate sacrifice while helping others reach safety,’ Mr Raab said in a statement, before adding: ‘The UK and US remain resolute in our mission to get as many people out as possible.’
Meanwhile President Joe Biden has today faced a barrage of criticism from opponents in the States.
Republican members accused the President of having ‘blood on his hands’, while Georgia Republican Jody Hice tonight called for the Democrat leader and his Secretary of State Antony Blinken to resign.
But the President put on a defiant front this evening and promised retaliation against ISIS-K, warning the terrorist group ‘we will strike back’.
‘We will not forgive, we will not forget. We will hunt you down and we will make you pay,’ he said during a speech at the White House tonight.
He promised the US would ‘respond with precision’ and vowed to continue the US evacuation saying: ‘America will not be deterred’.
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT BELOW
A man injured in the Kabul terrorists attacks on Thursday arrives at hospital to be treated. Among those killed in the two bomb attacks were 11 US Marines and one Navy medic
As many as 12 US serviceman are thought to have died in two bomb attacks outside Kabul airport, while reports suggest a third explosion has been heard in the capital tonight. Pictured: Horrifying images (which have been muzzed) show the victims of one of the blasts outside Kabul airport today
Wounded women arrive at a hospital for treatment after two blasts, which killed at least five and wounded a dozen, outside the airport in Kabul on August 26, 2021
Just hours earlier desperate Afghans were seen queuing in front of a barrier to Kabul airport waiting to be evacuated by US soldiers
President Joe Biden has been briefed on the attack which took place at the Abbey gate of the Hamid Karzai where there were also reports of gunfire
Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby said: ‘We can confirm an explosion outside Kabul airport. Casualties are unclear at this time. We will provide additional details when we can’
Medical staff bring an injured man to a hospital in an ambulance after two powerful explosions, which killed at least six people, outside the airport in Kabul on August 26, 2021
An injured man is wheeled into hospital in Kabul after a series of bomb attacks on the city’s airport, believed to have been carried out by ISIS-K
Injured Afghans flee Kabul airport on Thursday night after two explosions and gunfire ripped through crowds
Injured Afghans are removed from Kabul airport in the Baron Hotel, next to the airport in Kabul, after a suicide bomb attack on Thursday evening
Afghan people who want to leave the country continue to wait around Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 26, 2021
British soldiers secure the perimeter outside the Baron Hotel, near the Abbey Gate, in Kabul, following the terror attack
The soldiers had to secure the perimeter last night following the attack by ISIS-K on Kabul Airport, which killed 12 US troops
A timeline of the Kabul airport attack
Around 3.30am Afghan local time: The US issues a warning telling its citizens not to come to Kabul airport unless specifically told to. Crowds outside the airport are told to disperse ‘immediately’ due to the threat of a terror attack.
1.30pm: The UK’s Armed Forces minister James Heappey, during a round of TV interviews in the UK, admits an attack by terror group ISIS-K is ‘imminent’.
5.30pm: Panic erupts among crowds outside Kabul airport as gunshots are heard. Initial reports suggest the shots were fired at an Italian C-130 plane as it took off from the airport. However intelligence reports later suggest the shots were fired into the air in an attempt to disperse the crowds.
6.15pm: A suicide bomb is detonated outside the Baron Hotel near to Kabul Airport. The hotel has been housing Western journalists. It has also been used as a staging post by western nations for evacuation. The blast is reportedly followed by small arms gunfire.
6.20pm: The Pentagon confirms the first blast. The Taliban immediately confirm a number of deaths.
7.30pm: The Pentagon confirms a second bomb has been detonated this time outside the Abbey Gate – a British controlled access point to Kabul airport. It is believed the blast took place in open access sewers where Afghan evacuees were yesterday seen waiting to be processed.
7.35pm: The two blasts are confirmed by Western officials. At least 13 people are confirmed to have died, many more are thought to have been injured. Officials say the attacks were likely carried out by terrorist group ISIS-K.
9.15pm: The Taliban condemns the terrorist attacks. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid says his group ‘strongly condemns’ the bombings and is paying close attention to security. The group say the death toll may be as high as 40 people. Reports suggest four US Marines have died in the attacks.
10.30pm: A third blast is heard in Kabul. Reporters on the ground say they have heard the blast near to Kabul airport. Senior health officials say the death toll is now at least 60. Reports from Associated Press say 12 US service personnel have died, including 11 Marines and a Navy medic.
11pm: Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, confirms a dozen US soldiers have died in the attacks. He says as many as 15 are injured. He says two ISIS suicide bombers carried out the attack, along with ISIS gunmen.
Midnight: Joe Biden vows retaliation against ISIS-K. He says the US will not be ‘deterred’ and will continue its evacuation mission. Shortly after, it is confirmed a thirteen US soldier has died from his injuries. Officials say the number injured has also risen to 18.
*Times are all based on local time in Afghanistan
It comes as officials say as many as 90 people, including children, were killed in two separate explosions near Kabul airport today – just hours after warnings of an ‘imminent’ and ‘lethal’ ISIS terror attack.
The first blast was set off by a suicide bomber outside the Barons Hotel where British troops, journalists and UN officials have been staying during frantic evacuation mission by Western forces.
It was then followed by gunfire and mass panic before a second explosion ripped through a crowd of Afghans gathered at the Abbey Gate of the Hamid Karzai airport.
Taliban, who this evening condemned the ‘evil’ attacks, say there have been at least 40 deaths. Officials later said the figure had risen to at least 90.
However, in a press conference this evening, Mr Johnson said the attacks would not stop the UK’s evacuation mission. He said: ‘It is not going to interrupt our progress, we are going to get on with this evacuation.’
‘There were always going to vulnerabilities to terrorism and opportunistic terrorist attacks, we condemn them, I think they are despicable, but I am afraid they are something we had to prepare for.’
Images from the scene show scores of bodies piled up on the streets and bloodied people being carried away in wheelbarrows, with one emergency hospital treating 60 wounded people after six died on their way there.
An Afghan man queuing to enter the airport said the explosion hit the middle of a crowd of thousands, and he saw many injured and maimed people near where US troops were stationed.
An Afghan translator, named only as ‘Carl’, who witnessed the attacks, said a baby girl died in his arms after trying to save her when spotting her on the ground.
Another at the scene, a man from Liverpool who travelled to Afghanistan to save his family claims he saw ‘hundreds’ of people were blown up in front of him.
Habib Rahman, 30, who has lived in Toxteth for almost 15 years, travelled to Afghanistan last week to bring his family back to the UK after the Taliban took control of the capital.
While queuing at the airport, Habib was just a few yards away from the Abbey Gate of Kabul’s airport, where one of the two suicide bomb blasts went off this afternoon.
He told the Liverpool Echo: ‘We were just a few yards away from where the incident happened. I have seen people run out and passing, each covered in blood.
‘I saw hundreds of people blown up in front of me. I won’t sleep because of the blood I have seen today.’
Habib and his family suffered minor injuries in the explosion but said they were safe.
‘I need to get back, I need to get to a safer place. I have kids and we are in extreme danger,’ he added.
A US official said ISIS-K, a splinter of the terror group who are the sworn enemy of the Taliban, are ‘definitely believed’ to have carried out the attack.
Many had feared an attack could derail the evacuations, with the airport a likely target with crowds rushing to escape and many Western troops stationed at the transport hub.
Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby said: ‘We can confirm that the explosion at the Abbey Gate was the result of a complex attack that resulted in a number of US and 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.’
In a later statement, he added: ‘We can confirm that a number of US service personnel were killed in today’s complex attack at Kabul airport. A number of others are being treated for wounds.
‘We also know a number of Afghans fell victim to this heinous attack. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the loved ones and teammates of all those killed and injured.’
A Number 10 spokesman said Boris Johnson has been updated on the situation. The Prime Minister chaired a COBRA meeting this evening. Mr Biden was in the US’ Situation Room for much of the day.
Emmanuel Macron said he may struggle to evacuate 20 buses with French citizens on board at the airport gate and says he is in negotiation with the Taliban to secure their release.
Meanwhile, Norway became the first country to officially halt its evacuation plans, with Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide telling Norwegian broadcaster TV2: ‘The doors at the airport are now closed and it is no longer possible to get people in.’
A suicide bomb has caused a huge explosion outside Kabul airport with ‘unknown casualties’ just hours after warnings of an ‘imminent’ and ‘lethal’ ISIS terrorist attack
In this frame grab from video, people attend to a wounded man near the site of a deadly explosion outside the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan
A person who was hit by the suicide bomb at Kabul airport is carried away from the blast in a wheelbarrow
Taliban fighters stand on a pickup truck outside a hospital as volunteers bring injured people for treatment after two powerful explosions outside Kabul airport
Moments before the attack, a huge crowd of Afghan civilians and US soldiers are seen massing near the Abbey Gate where the second explosion struck
The blast took place near the Baron Hotel at the Abbey Gate of the airport where huge crowds had gathered in an attempt to enter the airport
Smoke rises from a deadly explosion outside the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. Taliban officials say as many as 40 people have been killed in the attack
US President Joe Biden faces calls to resign as Republicans accuse him of having ‘blood on his hands’ over Kabul attack
Republicans, outraged about the terrorist attacks in Kabul that left US personnel dead, accused President Biden of having ‘blood on his hands,’ as Sen. Lindsey Graham urged the US to take back control of Bagram airbase after reports of two explosions at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.
‘I have advocated for days that the Bagram Air Base should be reopened as the Kabul airport is very difficult to defend and has been the only evacuation outlet,’ the South Carolina Republican wrote on
‘We have the capability to reestablish our presence at Bagram to continue to evacuate American citizens and our Afghan allies. The biggest mistake in this debacle is abandoning Bagram.’
An ISIS-K suicide bomber blew himself up amid the swarms of people outside the airport Thursday, killing at least 13, including four US Marines. ISIS-K is also a sworn enemy of the
A second explosion was reported nearby a short time later at the airport’s Abbey Gate, where crowds of Afghans have been gathering for more than a week in the hope of being put on one of the evacuation flights out.
The State Department has warned Americans to evacuate the area immediately.
‘I urge the Biden Administration to reestablish our presence in Bagram as an alternative to the Kabul airport so that we do not leave our fellow citizens and thousands of Afghan allies behind. It is not a capability problem, but a problem of will,’ Graham said.
‘The retaking of Bagram would put our military at risk, but I think those involved in the operation would gladly accept that risk because it would restore our honor as a nation and save lives.’
Lawmakers were briefed on the situation this week by Biden’s national security team.
Meanwhile, Democrat Foreign Affairs Committee chair Sen. Bob Menendez, said: ‘This is a full-fledged humanitarian crisis and US government personnel … must secure the airport.’
‘As we wait for more details to come in, one thing is clear: We can’t trust the Taliban with Americans’ security.’
House GOP leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy called on Speaker Nancy Pelosi to bring back the House so that lawmakers can be briefed on the situation.
‘Today’s attacks are horrific. My prayers go out to those who were injured and the families of those who were killed. I also continue to pray for the safety of our troops, the stranded American citizens, our allies and Afghan partners who remain in the area. Our enemies have taken advantage of the chaotic nature of the withdrawal,’ the California Republican said in a statement.
‘It is time for Congress to act quickly to save lives. Speaker Pelosi must bring Congress back into session before August 31 so that we can be briefed thoroughly and comprehensively by the Biden Administration and pass Representative Gallagher’s legislation prohibiting the withdrawal of our troops until every American is out of Afghanistan.’
Officials do not believe there were any British casualties from the blasts. Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg tweeted: ‘I strongly condemn the horrific terrorist attack outside Kabul airport. My thoughts are with all those affected and their loved ones.
‘Our priority remains to evacuate as many people to safety as quickly as possible.’
UN Secretary General António Guterres also condemned the attack. His spokesperson said: ‘This incident underscores the volatility of the situation on the ground in Afghanistan, but also strengthens our resolve as we continue to deliver urgent assistance across the country in support of the Afghan people.’
Tom Tugendhat MP, who served in Afghanistan, said: ‘The attack on innocent people at Kabul airport simply trying to escape the horror of Taliban rule shows exactly who the group has brought with them.
‘The pattern is well established – from Nigeria and Mali to Syria and Iraq whenever Islamist extremists take power, terror follows.’
Meanwhile another Tory MP slammed Joe Biden’s leadership, saying: ‘He is not responsible for the day to day stuff but this is a strategic disaster of very significant proportions.
‘He could have done something about it, he says he couldn’t, but there was a chance to do something about it. Unfortunately he didn’t.
‘There was an initial disaster of Trump’s making, unfortunately Biden didn’t think he had the ability to turn it around, I wish he had.
‘There is always going to be chaos when you’re leaving somewhere on a forced deadline.
‘You are always going to run into potential difficulties and dangers and chaos if you are trying to get out of a collapsing state.
‘The question is, did it have to be a collapsing state? No, it didn’t have to be but we chose to leave and we chose to abandon 20 years of work.’
They said: ‘At what point do you actually say we have got to get the troops out because there is no more good that they can do by keeping them there or there is a diminishing amount of good that they can do and by keeping them there effectively we are beginning to make targets of them.’
The condemnation of President Biden’s withdrawl also continued in the aftermath of the attack, with Former US National Security Adviser, Gen McMaster, warning the attack was ‘only the beginning’..
Mr McMaster, who served as a senior US officer in Afghanistan, told BBC News the US had prioritised ‘getting the hell out of there, regardless of what the consequences will be’ and that the attack at Kabul airport was ‘what happens when you surrender to a terrorist organisation’.
A former Royal Marine who was near to the explosion close to Kabul airport has said his vehicle was targeted by a gunman amid the chaos.
Paul Farthing, known as Pen, who founded the Nowzad shelter in Kabul, is aiming to get 200 dogs and cats out of the country alongside his animal shelter staff.
Mr Farthing, who was outside the airport in a car when the incident occurred, told the PA news agency: ‘We’re fine but everything is chaos here at the moment.
‘All of a sudden we heard gunshots and our vehicle was targeted, had our driver not turned around he would have been shot in the head by a man with an AK-47.
‘We’ve been in the airport, and back out of the airport; the whole thing’s a mess.
‘There’s not much more I can say at the moment, I need to make sure the animals and everyone is safe.’
Tory MP Nus Ghani said she was on the phone to somebody outside Kabul airport when one explosion happened, tweeting: ‘Explosion at Kabul airport. I was on the phone to an Afghan outside the airport when he heard the explosion.
The blast was outside The Baron Hotel, at the Abbey Gate of Kabul airport. Westerners were staying in the hotel before their evacuation flights
An Afghan man queueing to enter the airport said the explosion hit the middle of a crowd of thousands, and he saw many injured and maimed people and was told of multiple fatalities
Images from the scene show scores of bloodied people being carried away from the bombsite with witnesses saying they saw ‘so many hurt’
Witnesses told Sky News the suicide bomber had detonated a device in a sewage canal-way packed with people and that there were ‘definitely’ civilian casualties
A man who appears to be holding his bloodied and injured arm is seen after the explosion
‘We will find you and we will make you pay’: Joe Biden promises retaliation against ISIS-K
US President Joe Biden promised retaliation against jihadist group ISIS-K over the killing of 12 US service personnel.
The President put on a defiant front this evening and promised retaliation against ISIS-K, warning the terrorist group ‘we will strike back’.
‘We will not forgive, we will not forget. We will hunt you down and we will make you pay,’ he said during a speech at the White House tonight.
He promised the US would ‘respond with precision’ and vowed to continue the US evacuation saying: ‘America will not be deterred’.
‘Praying that he gets away safely and we get his family safe passage out of this nightmare.’
Earlier, gunfire to disperse the thronging crowds at the airport was initially thought to have targeted a plane transporting 100 civilians to safety.
A source from Italy’s Defence Ministry had said shots were fired at the Italian C-130 plane minutes after take-off but it was not damaged.
But intelligence reports now claim the gunfire was to disperse crowds gathered at the airport and was not directed at the departing plane amid the panic.
An Italian journalist told Sky TG 24 that she had been aboard the plane along with 98 Afghan civilians when it appeared to be targeted by machine gun fire.
‘The pilot reacted promptly and implemented manoeuvres to avoid being hit within minutes of taking off from Kabul. There was a bit of panic,’ said the journalist.
Earlier, armed forces minister James Heappey said there was ‘very credible reporting’ of a ‘severe’ attack which could happen ‘within hours’ by ISIS-K, the sworn enemy of the Taliban who want to cause mayhem in the new regime.
The US, Britain and Australia had already told their citizens to flee the airport over the terror threat with Western forces still stationed at the transport hub.
Meanwhile Afghans who had been told to stay away from Kabul airport are instead flocking to Pakistan and Iran in a bid to escape after the UK told them to head to the border, while many countries have announced they are ending their airlift operations from today.
A large explosion has ripped through crowds at Kabul airport’s Abbey Gate, with reports of multiple casualties and the eruption of gunfire following the blast
Medical and hospital staff bring an injured man on a stretcher for treatment after two powerful explosions, which killed at least six people, outside the airport in Kabul on August 26, 2021
A man who was injured in the blast is carried in a wheelbarrow while his head is covered to stem the bleeding
The large explosion at Kabul explosion filled the air with smoke (left), while those injured in the suicide bomb attack were carried away from the scene
A view after two explosions reported outside Hamid Karzai International Airport, the center of evacuation efforts from Afghanistan since the Taliban took over in Kabul,
People injured in the blast arrive at a hospital in Kabul as they are helped inside the medical facility
Heappey, speaking before the attack, told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘There is now very, very credible reporting of an imminent attack.
‘It’s an extraordinarily challenging situation both on the ground and as a set of decisions to be taken here in Whitehall because people are desperate, people are fearing for their lives anyway.
‘And so I think there is an appetite by many in the queue to take their chances, but the reporting of this threat is very credible indeed and there is a real imminence to it. I can only say the threat is severe.’
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks with military personnel as he visits the Permanent Joint Headquarters to view the strategic command of Operation Pitting which is overseeing units from armed forces engaged in Afghanistan evacuations in Kabul
Italian intelligence officials say gunfire at Kabul airport was not directed at their plane transporting 100 Afghan civilians to safety after military sources said they were fired at
A US soldier holds up a sign indicating a gate is closed as hundreds gather at Kabul airport holding documents in a bid to flee despite security fears over a potential terror attack ‘within hours’
Planes are lined up at Kabul international airport today as the rescue mission to evacuate thousands is still ongoing ahead of the August 31 deadline
Founded in 2015, the ISIS splinter group’s followers aim to establish an Islamic caliphate across Khorasan (hence the initial ‘K’) – a historic region covering Pakistan and Afghanistan along with parts of Central Asia
Afghan nationals are desperately fleeing to the border after they were told to stay away from Kabul airport. They are making crossings into Pakistan at Spin Boldak where huge crowds were seen, Angur Ada and Torkham. They are also rushing to safety at border crossings in Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Many are still hoping to board flights at Kabul airport despite the Taliban and Western nations warning them to stay away
He added: ‘I can’t stress the desperation of the situation enough, the threat is credible, it is imminent, it is lethal.
‘And we wouldn’t be saying this if we weren’t genuinely concerned about offering Islamic State a target.’
Meanwhile Colonel Richard Kemp, former head of British forces in Afghanistan, said a terror attack could be carried out by any of Al Qaeda, ISIS or the Taliban.
He told BBC Breakfast prior to the attack: ‘That threat of terrorist attack, whether it’s from Taliban, the Islamic State, or Al Qaeda, it could equally be all three of those groups.
‘The fact that people are talking about Islamic State doesn’t make that the most likely threat.
US soldiers stand guard inside the airport walls while desperate civilians gather outside the gates in a bid to escape the Taliban
Armed forces minister James Heappey, speaking prior to the bombings, said that there is ‘very credible reporting’ of a ‘severe’ attack
A minister has warned that a ‘very serious’ terror threat at Kabul airport is ‘imminent’ as thousands desperately try to flee Afghanistan. Pictured: people waiting outside Hamid Karzai airport
Passengers line up to board a US Air Force flight from Kabul amid the mass evacuation of stranded citizens
Paratroopers assigned to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division conduct a security patrol during evacuations from Hamid Karzai International Airport today
Afghan nationals line up and wait for security checks in Pakistan before entering through a common border crossing point in Chaman
‘I think that threat has existed right the way from when this evacuation began, and I have no doubt that our forces are fully aware of the threat and already, for days now, have been taking measures to try and mitigate it, to prevent something like that happening.
‘But, clearly, there could be a terrorist attack of some sort against the forces in the airport, maybe forces outside the airport, and of course the people trying to get in.’
America, Britain and Australia all told their citizens in the early hours of Thursday to immediately leave the area over fears of a deadly blast from jihadists.
But a Western diplomat in Kabul said areas outside the airport gates were ‘incredibly crowded’ again despite the warnings.
What is ISIS-K?
ISIS-K is one of six or seven regional offshoots of the Islamic State – the K stands for the Khorasan region, which historically encompasses parts of modern day Iran, Central Asia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
ISIS-K was begun in 2014, as a splinter group from the Pakistani Taliban, and its original leaders were from Pakistan.
In 2015 it was recognized by ISIS’s leaders in Iraq and Syria, and in January 2016 declared a terrorist organization by the State Department.
Its strongholds are eastern Afghanistan, straddling the border with Pakistan in Nangarhar province, and the north of Afghanistan.
In 2018 the group was weakened in the north of Afghanistan, and in 2019 severely beaten back in the east. But in 2020 they regrouped and launched a series of devastating terror attacks.
US officials said last night there was a ‘very real risk’ of an attack by the terror group who are the Taliban’s rivals.
‘Due to threats outside the Kabul airport, US citizens should avoid traveling to the airport and avoid airport gates unless you receive instructions to do so,’ the US State Department tweeted on Wednesday night.
‘Those at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately.’
The order to leave the gates was issued at 3.30am local time in Kabul on Thursday morning.
Planes departing from the US have been departing every 39 minutes in the rush to evacuate as many citizens as possible before the August 31 deadline.
In total, around 88,000 people have been airlifted from Kabul airport since evacuation efforts began, the Pentagon said on Wednesday, but up to 1,500 Americans and 400 Britons still remain on the ground.
Already, military cargo planes leaving Kabul airport have launched flares to disrupt any potential surface-to-air missile fire as fleeing Afghan troops abandoned heavy weapons and equipment across the country in their collapse following America’s withdrawal of troops.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson today stressed that August 31 would not mark the end of the UK’s commitment to helping those who wish to flee Afghanistan.
Johnson told broadcasters that although the ‘lion’s share’ of eligible people had now been removed from the country, he recognised ‘there will be people who still need help’.
Asked whether this would be challenging amid reports of the Taliban blocking the roads, Mr Johnson said: ‘What we’re hoping, and this is the key point that the G7 agreed, is that the Taliban understand that if they want to engage with development aid, they want to unlock those billions of funds, they want to have a diplomatic, political relationship with the outside world, then the safe passage for those who want to come out is the key precondition.’
Some countries have begun to even pull their soldiers and diplomats out, fearing potential attacks and likely signaling the beginning of the end of one of history’s largest airlifts.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex told French radio RTL on that ‘from tomorrow evening onwards, we are not able to evacuate people from the Kabul airport’ due to the upcoming American withdrawal.
Armed Taliban fighters wait for lunch at a restaurant in Kabul while sitting with their guns amid the chaos at the international airport
Thousands of Afghans rush to the Hamid Karzai International Airport as they try to flee the Afghan capital of Kabul
The threat is heaping extra pressure on the operation to help people flee the nation captured by the Taliban
Western nations warned of a possible attack on Kabul’s airport, where thousands (pictured today) have flocked as they try to flee Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in the waning days of a massive airlift
A source close to the government added that the date had been imposed on France by the plan of the United States, which is providing security at the airport, to pull out by August 31.
The source added that France would do everything to keep its operation in place for as many more hours as it can, saying that the evacuation of civilians would wind up several hours before the formal end of the mission when military and remaining embassy services would leave.
The French foreign ministry has indicated that the final evacuations of civilians from Kabul by France would be late on Thursday or Friday morning.
Meanwhile, Danish defense minister Trine Bramsen bluntly warned: ‘It is no longer safe to fly in or out of Kabul.’ Denmark’s last flight, carrying 90 people plus soldiers and diplomats, already had left Kabul.
And the Dutch government said it would stop evacuation flights from Kabul today in what it acknowledged was a ‘painful moment’ that would leave some people behind.
Already, Poland and Belgium have ended their evacuations from Afghanistan.
The Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan grew out of disaffected Taliban members who hold an even-more extreme view of Islam, riding on a wave when the militants seized territory across Iraq and Syria.
Naming themselves after Khorasan, a historic name for the greater region, the extremists embarked on a series of brutal attacks that included a 2020 assault on a maternity hospital in Kabul that saw infants and women killed.
The Taliban have fought against Islamic State militants in Afghanistan. However, their advance across the country likely saw IS fighters freed alongside the Taliban’s own.
Armed forces minister James Heappey said there is ‘very credible reporting’ of a ‘severe’ attack which could happen ‘within hours’ by ISIS-K
Troubling video showed thousands of Afghans attempting to flee the country via the Pakistan border. The footage shows a huge crowd of people at Spin Boldak, a southern village on the border with Pakistan, queuing up at the border gates
US paratroopers inspect weapons during an evacuation operation at Kabul airport amid growing fears of an imminent terror attack
CNN reported Thursday that they believe ISIS-K wants to create mayhem at the airport and has intelligence streams suggesting it is capable and planning to carry out multiple attacks.
Analysts told on Wednesday night that the intelligence likely came from intercepted calls, amid fears recently-freed prisoners could mount the attacks.
Concerns increased after more than 100 prison inmates loyal to the ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan escaped from two prisons near Kabul as the Taliban advanced on the Afghan capital.
Taliban fighters stormed the jails at Bagram and Pul-e-Charkhi, both to the east of Kabul, shortly before the capital city fell, as hundreds of ISIS-K fighters were freed.
Joe Biden on Tuesday warned that ISIS-K were believed to be attempting to target departing jets, as he explained why it was unlikely that US forces will remain in the area beyond August 31.
The UK last night told its Afghan allies to head for the border rather than attempt to get into Kabul airport where US and British forces are winding down their operations.
As evacuation efforts entered their final hours, Defence Secretary
Afghans walk through a security barrier as they enter Pakistan through a common border crossing point in Chaman
The UK last night told its Afghan allies to head for the border rather than attempt to get into Kabul airport where US and British forces are winding down their operations. Pictured: Taliban fighters at a restaurant in Kabul
Questioned yesterday about what Afghans who have been offered student places or fellowships in the UK should do, Mr Wallace said: ‘If they think they can make it to a third country, that may be a better option.’
Pressed by a Tory backbencher, Mr Wallace added: ‘I recommend that they try and make it to the border … because it is higher profile going to the airport – that is where the Taliban will be focusing their efforts at the moment.’
There was no suggestion however, that Afghans who have been told by western officials to travel to the airport for evacuation should alter that plan.
Heappey said the ‘window of opportunity to evacuate people is closing’ ahead of the August 31 troop withdrawal deadline.
He said: ‘We will do our best to protect those who are there. There is every chance that as further reporting comes in we may be able to change the advice again and process people anew but there’s now guarantee of that.
‘But… the window of opportunity to evacuate people is closing. It’s not as simply a case of we can pause, deal with the threat and pick up where we left off.’
He said there will be 11 more flights out of Kabul on Thursday but declined to say whether there will be more on Friday, citing the security of troops.
A Pakistani paramilitary soldier checks travel documents of an Afghan before crossing the border into Afghanistan through a common border crossing point in Chaman
Meanwhile, troubling video yesterday showed thousands of Afghans attempting to flee the country via the Pakistan border.
The footage shows a huge crowd of people at Spin Boldak, a southern village on the border with Pakistan, queuing up at the border gates.
It comes amid reports that desperate Britons and Afghans cleared for evacuation are still trapped in Kabul and are being charged more than £5,000 by local ‘private security firms’ to help them escape the clutches of the Taliban.
The firms are reportedly charging $7,500 dollars (approximately £5,500) to give those willing to pay a safe passage past Taliban fighters and to Kabul airport.
But most of the money is actually being used to pay off the Taliban anyway, say UK defence sources.
Meanwhile, crowds of people wait outside the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, yesterday as the evacuation mission continues
Pressed by a Tory backbencher, Mr Wallace added: ‘I recommend that they try and make it to the border … because it is higher profile going to the airport – that is where the Taliban will be focusing their efforts at the moment.’ Around 150 flights left Kabul airport yesterday as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab insisted the UK will use ‘every hour left’ to rescue vulnerable Afghans
Some of those trying to flee the Taliban may be better off heading for the border rather than hoping for a flight out, the Defence Secretary admitted last night.
Hundreds of people gather near an evacuation control checkpoint during ongoing evacuations at Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul
Private security firms are charging terrified Britons who are cleared for evacuation but trapped in the chaos of Kabul
Desperate Britons and Afghans cleared for evacuation are reportedly paying private security firms more than £5,000 to help them escape the clutches of the Taliban, it has been reported.
The firms are reportedly charging $7,500 dollars (approximately £5,500) to give those willing to pay a safe passage past Taliban fighters and to Kabul airport.
But most of the money is actually being used to pay off the Taliban anyway, UK defence sources have told
It comes as yesterday Taliban officials announced a new edict banning Afghans from leaving the country.
Roadblocks and check points were set up across Kabul to prevent access to the airport where western forces are carrying out a rapid evacuation.
Meanwhile, the UK’s Defence Secretary last night warned some of those trying to flee the
As evacuation efforts entered their final hours,
The frantic race to rescue the last 2,000 Afghan allies was underway last night as the Daily Mail learned all UK troops must leave Afghanistan by the weekend.
Around 150 flights left Kabul airport yesterday as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab insisted the UK will use ‘every hour left’ to rescue vulnerable Afghans.
But the grim reality is that many hundreds – including heroic Afghan interpreters – will be left to the clutches of the Taliban after Tuesday’s deadline for international troops to leave.
A US order that Britain must pull out its 1,000 soldiers and officials before the US begins its withdrawal has reduced the time available to process the final claims.
US commanders have also insisted on ‘two to three days’ to conduct a unilateral extraction of their 6,000-strong force, meaning the last UK troops are expected to fly out on Sunday.
The order came as the Taliban further tightened its grip on the airport, using checkpoints to block anyone not holding the necessary paperwork and demanding bribes from those who did.
Afghans and foreign citizens suffered beatings.
Video footage showed an Australian with blood streaming down his face from a head wound after he was confronted by Taliban guards.
There were estimated to be 10,000 Afghans crammed outside the gates to the airport.
UK commander Brigadier Dan Blanchford said they faced ‘harrowing and extreme conditions’.
Since the start of the operation, the RAF has flown out 11,474 people, including almost 7,000 vulnerable Afghans.
It has evacuated more than 2,500 UK nationals, 341 British Embassy officials and around 1,000 nationals from 38 nations. The figure of 2,000 awaiting rescue could rise, with the last freedom flight possibly tomorrow.
Around 150 flights left Kabul airport yesterday as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab insisted the UK will use ‘every hour left’ to rescue vulnerable Afghans. In this image provided by the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Air Force loadmasters and pilots assigned to the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, load people being evacuated from Afghanistan onto a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster
There were estimated to be 10,000 Afghans crammed outside the gates to the airport. UK commander Brigadier Dan Blanchford said they faced ‘harrowing and extreme conditions’. Pictured: Afghans line up outside a bank to take out cash as people keep waiting at Hamid Karzai International Airport
‘We’re leaving in 72 hours – it doesn’t matter who’s left on the ground,’ says former CIA agent
American civilians and Afghan allies have just 72 hours before evacuations from Kabul end, a former CIA officer and terrorism expert has claimed.
Sam Faddis, who served as the head of the Counter Terrorism Center’s Weapons of Mass Destruction unit, said sources in the Pentagon, military officers in Kabul and other former intelligence agency officers have told him that flights for civilians out of the Afghan capital will actually end in the next three days.
The alleged deadline has not been officially announced or verified, but raises fears that American citizens could be left behind in the Taliban-occupied city.
On Tuesday President Joe Biden confirmed that US forces will be leaving the country by August 31, a date agreed with the Taliban – but Faddis claims American civilians currently in the city have a far shorter deadline.
‘Biden decided we’re pulling out within 72 hours. We’re gone, and it doesn’t matter who’s left on the ground,’ the ex-CIA officer told DailyMail.com.
There are ‘special cases’ still to be processed – Afghans to be offered sanctuary in the UK due to the likelihood they will be targeted by the Taliban.
British troops face an increased threat of a terrorist attack from jihadis.
At the airport, a young Afghan woman told the BBC that Taliban forces were treating the crowds of waiting civilians ‘like animals’.
Before she boarded a flight, she said: ‘Today after three days, I finally got into the airport and I have my flight. It took us 18 hours to get through one of the gates .
‘The airport is completely surrounded by Taliban forces and they’re being as brutal as they can to the people. They’re shooting at people, they’re beating people.
‘I have mixed feelings. On the one hand I’m travelling to a safer country – anything right now is better than being in a country led by the Taliban.
‘On the other, I’m leaving behind everything – my life, my work, my dreams, my hopes. I really desperately want to one day come back to Kabul and see Kabul free of the Taliban.’
Amid the horror, there was also humanity. A British officer described looking after a baby girl after she child became separated from her mother in the crush.
Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Caesar of 16 Medical Regiment, said: ‘We took her for a walk around our hospital, managed to burp her a few times. She seemed to settle.
‘One of the challenges in this sort of environment is never really knowing who is going to come through the door. We have to be prepared for every eventuality.
‘Fortunately as a recent father myself I have a bit of experience in dealing with small children. She was later reunited with her mother before being evacuated.’
At the airport, a young Afghan woman told the BBC that Taliban forces were treating the crowds of waiting civilians ‘like animals’. Before she boarded a flight, she said: ‘Today after three days, I finally got into the airport and I have my flight. It took us 18 hours to get through one of the gates.’ Pictured: A C-17 Globemaster lll lands on the runway as evacuees from Afghanistan debark a C-17 Globemaster
Two paratroopers assigned to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division conduct security while a C-130 Hercules takes off during a evacuation operation in Kabul
A heart-breaking announcement for those who remain is expected ‘imminently’, according to political sources. The crowds are expected to be told, perhaps today, that evacuations for civilians are no longer possible.
Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the Commons defence committee, said: ‘We are down to the last hours.
‘It is vital we communicate with those waiting outside the airport to prevent panic and loss of life, confirming what has happened.
They will have to be told, sadly, that no more evacuation flights are possible ahead of the August 31 deadline and that, as from then, only military withdrawal flights will be taking off.’
Afghanistan’s chilling new face of terror: ‘ISIS-K’ slaughter patients in their hospital beds, bomb girls schools… and see the Taliban as far too liberal. Their latest victory? Joe Biden is running scared of them, writes GUY ADAMS
ISIS-K are thought to be the likely source of a potential terror attack at Kabul airport, which officials fear is ‘imminent’ with ‘lethal’ consequences.
The terrorist splinter group are a sworn enemy of the Taliban and experts believe they want to cause chaos for the new regime while a large presence of foreign troops is stationed in the country.
Guy Adams explores the roots of the murderous Islamists who have already carried out a series of deadly attacks in the Middle East, amid fears of further violence.
Dressed in white coats and carrying stethoscopes, three young men walked unchallenged into Kabul’s 400-bed Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan hospital and made their way to the upper floors.
Then, outside the building, situated opposite the heavily fortified US Embassy, there was a loud bang.
The noise, from the detonating suicide vest of a comrade, acted as a signal for the trio to pull a selection of hand grenades and AK-47 assault rifles from beneath their medical clothing, before opening fire.
By the time the chaos had died down, several hours later, more than 30 doctors and patients had been killed and roughly 50 more wounded.
Further casualties included the three attackers, who were shot by Afghan special forces, plus the original suicide bomber, and a fifth member of the terror gang who had detonated a car bomb inside the hospital complex.
A former Pakistani Taliban commander called Hafiz Saeed Khan (middle) led ISIS-K until he was killed by a drone strike in 2016
Their brazen and pitiless attack, which unfolded in broad daylight one afternoon in March 2017, was carried out in the name of ISIS-K, a local branch of the notorious global terror network.
Founded in 2015, its followers aim to establish an Islamic caliphate across Khorasan (hence the initial ‘K’) – a historic region covering Pakistan and Afghanistan along with parts of Central Asia.
The terror group is now such a threat that fear of an attack by Isis-K is being used to justify the US’s refusal to delay its withdrawal from Kabul Airport after the August 31 deadline set by Joe Biden.
In a statement released on Tuesday night, the US President claimed: ‘Every day we’re on the ground is another day we know that ISIS-K is seeking to target the airport and attack both US and allied forces and innocent civilians.’
The White House seems to believe ISIS-K (who regard the Taliban as dangerous liberals) is about to organise a wave of attacks in an effort to destabilise its efforts to form a government.
If so, then any foreign troops, including soldiers from Britain’s 16 Air Assault Brigade currently guarding Kabul airport, would represent very high-profile targets indeed.
The organisation has already carried out roughly 100 attacks against civilian targets and another 250 involving US, Afghan or Pakistani security services, most of them chronicled via macabre mobile phone videos then gleefully broadcast via the internet.
One particularly vile film, circulated in June 2017, celebrated the work of a group of child recruits to ISIS-K known as the ‘cubs of the caliphates’.
Founded in 2015, its followers aim to establish an Islamic caliphate across Khorasan (hence the initial ‘K’) – a historic region covering Pakistan and Afghanistan along with parts of Central Asia
The film showed two of them – both dressed in black and seemingly under 12 years of age – forcing terrified captives to kneel on the ground.
They proceeded to pull back the heads of the men (who were apparently accused of spying), rant at the camera and execute them via a single shot to the skull.
More recently, in May this year, ISIS-K killed at least 68 Afghans and injured another 165 when they detonated three car bombs outside the Syed Al-Shahda school for girls in Kabul.
The vast majority of the victims were young pupils the Islamist group regard as legitimate targets for the sin of being educated while being female.
The attack, which came after a period in which Western air strikes had killed thousands of the terror network’s supporters and at least three of its leaders, served as a bloody reminder of its ongoing ability to bring carnage to the streets of Afghanistan.
ISIS-K published this photo in an effort to project unity and strength just days before hundreds of fighters admitted defeat and surrendered
The very fact that a US President is admitting that his policy is being governed by a perceived threat from ISIS-K represents a major coup for a hitherto fairly low-profile organisation.
It first made headlines in January 2016, when the Pentagon announced that the group had been designated as a Foreign Terrorist organisation.
This made assisting them a criminal offence and allowed US troops on the ground to actively pursue members (under previous terms of engagement they usually had to wait until the group attacked them before responding).
The organisation’s chosen first Emir, or leader, was a former Pakistani Taliban commander called Hafiz Saeed Khan.
His foot-soldiers were largely people who had defected from the Taliban as was his canny PR chief, Sheikh Maqbool, who was charged with ensuring that the group’s grisly attacks gained worldwide attention.
They were appointed at the behest of ISIS’s (then) top dog Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was facing difficulties in his stomping grounds of Syria and Iraq, so began funnelling cash to Khan in order to establish a new stronghold in the East.
Initially, their activities were limited to suicide bombings and small arms attacks targeting civilians, along with the odd kidnapping, but that was enough to prompt close attention from the US, who succeeded in killing Khan via a drone strike in July 2016.
A member of the Afghan security forces is seen holding the black and white Islamic State flag in the Afghan city of Jalalabad in August 2020, after ISIS-K launched a 20-hour gun battle to attack the air field and storm a prison, releasing their fighters. Joe Biden on Tuesday warned that ISIS-K posed a significant threat to the evacuation efforts in Afghanistan
His successor Abdul Hasib masterminded the hospital attack mentioned above, and was famed for both ordering fighters to behead local elders in front of their families, and to kidnap women and girls so they could be forced to ‘marry’ his fighters, that is, become sex slaves.
He perished in a special forces raid on his compound in which two US troops died in April 2017.
Later that month, the US dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb in its arsenal – a GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) also known as the ‘Mother Of All Bombs’ – on a key ISIS-K cave and tunnel system in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province. Around 100 of their troops perished.
A series of drone strikes then wiped out both of Hasib’s successors, Abu Sayed and Abu Saad Orakzai, and roughly 80 per cent of the group’s troops, reducing their estimated strength from between three and four thousand to under 800 followers by the end of 2018.
Yet like so many militant groups in the benighted history of Afghanistan, they have since proved almost impossible to eliminate completely.
The deaths of successive leaders have ended up being largely symbolic, since they have been quickly replaced by experienced peers shipped in from other ISIS strongholds.
New foot-soldiers have been recruited via slick propaganda videos outlining its global aspirations to create an Islamist caliphate across Asia, governed by Sharia law, before eventually ‘[raising] the banner of al-Uqab above Jerusalem and the White House’.
An ISIS-K leader identified as Abu Haidar is pictured with his seven fighters in an undated image. The men were all killed during a clash with the Afghan forces in Nangarhar province, the heartland of ISIS-K
This ambition equates to the defeat of both Israel and the United States (and therefore the imposition of their twisted view of life on those countries).
The group’s current leader is believed to be Shahab al-Muhajir, also known as Sanaullah.
A United Nations report published in February said that he took over in June 2020.
The communiqué announcing the appointment, written in Arabic and translated into Pashto, referred to al-Muhajir as an experienced military leader and one of the ‘urban lions’ of ISIL-K in Kabul who had been ‘involved in guerrilla operations and the planning of suicide and complex attacks.’
While Sanaullah’s reign may be bad news for Afghans, he’s currently thought to have little to no capacity for mounting terror attacks in the West.
He is instead focusing on a mission to rid Afghanistan and other parts of its home territory of foreign ‘crusaders’ who ‘proselytize Muslims’ as well as ‘apostates’.
That in turn may explain why America is so anxious to withdraw from Kabul: once US troops are home, they are no longer in his organisation’s firing line.
For the Afghans left behind, escaping ISIS-K’s reign of terror will not be nearly so simple.
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