- A huge explosion has rocked the Abbey gate of the airport while another hit the nearby Barons Hotel
- Initial reports say at least 13 people were killed including children and Afghans who were near the airport
- However the Taliban, who condemned the ‘evil’ attacks, say as many as 40 people have died in the blasts
- It is being reported four US Marines have been killed in blasts, which come after US warned of terror threat
- The attack could spell the end of the evacuations process with Germany already pulling out of Afghanistan
- Armed forces minister James Heappey said earlier there was intelligence of a ‘severe’ attack from ISIS-K
- The ISIS splinter group is a sworn enemy of the Taliban and officials said they want to cause mayhem
Four US Marines are thought to be among the 40 people killed in an ‘ISIS suicide’ bomb attack outside Kabul airport today.
Jihadist splinter group ISIS-K are believed to be behind the two blasts outside the gates of Kabul airport, where thousands of Afghans were awaiting evacuation.
The disaster – which comes after warnings by US and UK officials of an ‘imminent’ terror attack – could now spark an immediate to the West’s frantic evacuation efforts in Afghanistan.
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.
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.
It comes after as the Taliban say as many as 40 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.
Western officials say at least 13 people have died in the attacks, though the Taliban, who this evening condemned the ‘evil’ attacks, say at least 40 people could have died.
It is believed at least four US Marines are among those to have been killed. The Pentagon today confirmed that ‘a number’ of US service members had been killed, though they did not release any further details.
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.
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.’
A Number 10 spokesman said Boris Johnson has been updated on the situation. The Prime Minister chaired a COBRA meeting this evening, while Joe Biden is in the Situation Room.
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.’+57
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+57
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’+57
In this frame grab from video, people attend to a wounded man near the site of a deadly explosion outside the airport in Kabul, AfghanistanStream video appears to capture second explosion at Kabul Airport
A person who was hit by the suicide bomb at Kabul airport is carried away from the blast in a wheelbarrow+57
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+57
Moments before the attack, a huge crowd of Afghan civilians and US soldiers are seen massing near the Abbey Gate where the second explosion struckSurvivors seen injured after Kabul Airport suicide bombing
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+57
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
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.+57
The blast was outside The Baron Hotel, at the Abbey Gate of Kabul airport. Westerners were staying in the hotel before their evacuation flightsKabul airport blast victims arrive at the hospital
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+57
Images from the scene show scores of bloodied people being carried away from the bombsite with witnesses saying they saw ‘so many hurt’Traffic chaos outside Kabul Airport blocking ambulances from site
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+57
A man who appears to be holding his bloodied and injured arm is seen after the explosion+57
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, 2021French President to work with allies after Kabul airport attack
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.
‘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. +57
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 +57
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+57
A man who was injured in the blast is carried in a wheelbarrow while his head is covered to stem the bleeding+57
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 Kabul: ‘Gunfire is continuing’ after explosion at airport
People injured in the blast arrive at a hospital in Kabul as they are helped inside the medical facility +57
Smoke rises above the rooftops from the large explosion outside the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan+57
A man is covered with blood as he staggers away from the blast looking dazed
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.
Heappey 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.’Attack on Kabul airport
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 +57
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’+57
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+57
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: ‘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.+57
US soldiers stand guard inside the airport walls while desperate civilians gather outside the gates in a bid to escape the Taliban+57
Armed forces minister James Heappey said that there is ‘very credible reporting’ of a ‘severe’ attack+57
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+57
Passengers line up to board a US Air Force flight from Kabul amid the mass evacuation of stranded citizens+57
Paratroopers assigned to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division conduct a security patrol during evacuations from Hamid Karzai International Airport today+57
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.
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’.Priti Patel and Dominic Raab arrive at Number 10