Suspected suicide bombers struck the crowded gates of Kabul airport with at least two explosions on Thursday, causing a bloodbath among desperate civilians hoping to flee and casting the final days of the Western airlift of its allies into chaos.
A Taliban official said at least 13 people including children had been killed and 52 wounded, while witnesses spoke of many more bodies. A surgical hospital run by an Italian charity said it was treating more than 60 wounded. The Pentagon said U.S. personnel were among those hurt.
Video images uploaded to the internet by an Afghan journalist showed a pile of bloodsoaked bodies in a street surrounded by debris. The man filming it was wailing.
The explosion took place amid the crowds outside the airport who have been massing in hope of escaping in an airlift which the United States says will end by Tuesday, following the swift capture of the country by the Taliban.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blasts, but U.S. officials pointed the finger at Islamic State’s Afghan affiliate, ISIS-Khorosan, which has emerged as enemies of both the West and of the Taliban. read more
Mohammad Tawfiq, a resident of the Yaka Toot area adjacent to military section of the airport, told Reuters that a canal near the airport was filled with the bodies of the dead and wounded.
A witness who gave his name as Jamshed, said he had gone to the airport in the hope of getting a visa to reach the United States.
“There was a very strong and powerful suicide attack, in the middle of the people. Many were killed, including Americans, many were killed and many injured,” he said.
Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said on Twitter: “We can confirm that the explosion at the Abbey Gate was the result of a complex attack that resulted in a number of U.S. and civilian casualties. We can also confirm at least one other explosion at or near the Baron Hotel, a short distance from Abbey Gate.”
Taliban official Suhail Shaheen said: “I confirm two explosions in the assembly of people in the area managed by U.S. forces have occurred. Initial reports say 13 persons have been killed and 52 wounded.
“We strongly condemn this gruesome incident and will take every step to bring the culprits to justice.”
The Taliban did not identify the attackers, but a spokesman described them as “evil circles” who would be suppressed once the foreign troops leave.
Washington and its allies had been urging civilians to stay away from the airport on Thursday, citing the threat of an Islamic State suicide attack.