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A massive explosion took place just outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul this morning, where the United States, NATO forces, and allies continue to evacuate thousands of civilians from Afghanistan ahead of the hard August 31st deadline set by the Taliban and agreed upon by the Biden administration.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby confirmed the explosion on Twitter, noting that there have been multiple U.S. casualties.
“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,” he wrote. “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.”
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.
— John Kirby (@PentagonPresSec) August 26, 2021
Details of the explosion came amid warnings for evacuees to stay away from the airport in Kabul earlier on Thursday, following an increased threat from ISIS-K, the Daesh’s branch in Afghanistan. Defense officials told lawmakers on Tuesday that a new threat was emerging n Afghanistan following the collapse of the Afghan government, which was supplanted by Taliban forces who took over most of the nation’s capital cities, including Kabul.
According to Axios, the State Department issued a warning on Wednesday night urging Americans not to travel to the airport and to leave immediately if they gathered near the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate. Similar warnings were given by the U.K. and Australian governments, which are assisting in the evacuation effort.
James Heappey, the British armed forces minister, said on BBC that the threat of a suicide bombing attack by ISIS forces was “credible, imminent, and lethal.”
Prior to the attack, the White House stressed the possibility of an attack by ISIS-K and cited it as a primary factor in trying to complete the evacuation by the August 31st deadline.
The Biden administration and the State Department left open the possibility of leaving thousands of U.S. citizens and allies stranded behind in Kabul but did not elaborate when pressed on the matter by members of the media.
Axios reports that following the attack, President Joe Biden has been briefed on the matter, which occurred as he was scheduled to meet with the national security team on Afghanistan in the situation room.
Calibre Obscura, an arms research and Middle East conflict specialist account on Twitter suggests that the attack was performed by Inghimasi, or Jihadist guerilla fighters who “martyr” themselves for the cause of ISIS and other Sunni Islamist groups.
I was wondering this morning if it was really going to come. Inghimasi attack, it seems. 😔https://t.co/caoGPFWUm2
— Cᴀʟɪʙʀᴇ Oʙsᴄᴜʀᴀ (@CalibreObscura) August 26, 2021
Sewage canal where Afghans were vetted after their documents was packed with Afghans including women and children. A suicide attacker blew himself up in the middle of a large crowd. At least another attacker started shooting, multiple eye witnesses in the area&a friend tells me. pic.twitter.com/1MHuLOZnDl
— BILAL SARWARY (@bsarwary) August 26, 2021
“Large suicide attack and small arms shooting between fighter and coalition, eyewitness tells me,” wrote independent journalist Bilal Sarwary, who provided photos of the location prior to the explosion. “Sewage canal where Afghans were vetted after their documents was packed with Afghans including women and children. A suicide attacker blew himself up in the middle of a large crowd. At least another attacker started shooting, multiple eye witnesses in the area&a friend tells me.”
— Sudhir Chaudhary (@sudhirchaudhary) August 26, 2021
The Times reports that a large explosion “ripped through crowds at Kabul airport’s Abbey Gate, with reports of multiple casualties and eruption of gunfire following the blast.”
“It came after warnings of an imminent attack at the airport by the Islamic State-Khorosan, the Afghan branch of Isis that has repeatedly targeted civilians in suicide blasts,” the publication added. “Abbey Gate is one of three entrances to the airport where thousands of Afghans have congregated desperately seeking a place on an evacuation flight out. Western governments issued warnings overnight for people to leave those areas immediately, citing intelligence of a pending suicide attacks.”
As of the time of this report, it is unclear how many casualties were injured or killed in the explosion, the details of which remain sketchy due to the decreased presence of journalists in Kabul.
It is not immediately clear if any members of the U.S. military or American civilians were injured in the blast or how President Biden intends to respond to the attack, which was directed at evacuees queueing to get into the airport.