Kabul, Aug 26: At least 60 people were killed, including 12 US troops, and 140 others wounded, many critically, in twin suicide bombings that ripped through thronging crowds outside Kabul airport on Thursday evening.
The Pentagon in a briefing said that 12 US troops had been killed and 15 others were wounded in the twin blasts.
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin in a statement expressed his deepest condolences to the loved ones and teammates of all those killed and wounded in Kabul today. “We will not be dissuaded from the task at hand,” he said
Earlier, Pentagon Press secretary John Kirby had said that “a number of US service members were killed in today’s complex attack at Kabul airport. A number of others are being treated for wounds.”
Afghan Health Ministry sources said that the death toll was at 60 while the number of wounded stood at 140.
The blasts came hours after the US warned its citizens to stay away from the airport citing security fears.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid strongly condemned the blasts but added that the explosions took place in an area where the US forces are responsible for the security.
“The Islamic Emirate strongly condemns the bombing of civilians at Kabul airport, which took place in an area where US forces are responsible for security. The Islamic Emirate is paying close attention to the security and protection of its people, and evil circles will be strictly stopped,” he tweeted.
UN Secretary General António Guterres condemned the terror attacks and expressed his support for both the injured and the families of those who have been killed.
India has strongly condemned the blasts and said terrorist attacks reinforce the need for the world to stand unitedly against terrorism and all those who provide sanctuaries to terrorists.
As per initial reports, an Islamic State jihadist wearing a suicide vest and a car bomber are believed to be behind the deadly attacks outside Kabul airport.
One of the suicide bombers detonated his vest among people standing in knee-deep wastewater in a canal outside the airport, with the impact throwing the bodies into the dirty water. Videos of the blast showed many bodies lying face down in the waste water, while the survivors were helping the injured out of the canal.
The American troops standing on the other side of the canal to check passports of the people were hit in the blast.
US troops exchanged gunfire soon after that explosion, reports said.
The second blast occurred outside the nearby Baron Hotel in what the Pentagon is describing as a “complex attack.” The hotel is where many Americans and British evacuees had been told to gather in recent days before heading to the airport.
President Joe Biden is reported to be monitoring the situation. He was in a security meeting about the Afghanistan situation when the first attack occurred.
Images of blood-soaked people being rushed from the scene in wheelbarrows have also emerged.
Western media, quoting US officials, said the “complex attack” was believed to have been carried out by the Islamic State group.
A video of the blasts, taken from afar, showed a huge bright explosion lighting up the sky and then plumes of smoke rising high into the sky, followed by another explosion within seconds.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said earlier that one explosion took place at the Abbey Gate of the airport, while the other one took place near Baron Hotel, a short distance away.
He said the first explosion was “the result of a complex attack that resulted in a number of US and civilian 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 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,” he said in a tweet.
Abbey Gate is one of four entrances to the airport, where thousands of people had gathered everyday since August 15 in a desperate effort to leave the country after Kabul fell to the Taliban.
According to Rita Katz, a terrorism analyst and director of SITE (Search International Terrorist Entities) Intelligence Group, a private intelligence firm based in Washington, the blasts have the hallmark of the Islamic State.
“The more we learn about the attacks the more it is apparent that #ISIS Khorasan Province carried out this attack, and may still carry out more. Since Taliban took over, the group has repeatedly warned of upcoming attacks in Afghanistan, and Kabul has long been a top target,” she tweeted.
“Just last week, #ISIS officially warned of severe attacks in Afghanistan, as
@siteintel_jt reported: ” The soldiers of the Caliphate, are preparing for a new stage in their blessed jihad, which will not stop…”