Kabul airport a danger zone

An explosion rocked Kabul's airport as various threats remain while Afghanistan residents and Americans attempt to flee the country during the Taliban takeover.



August 26, 2021 - 9:39 AM

Afghan people sit as they wait to leave the Kabul airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021, after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan's 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city's airport trying to flee the group's feared hardline brand of Islamist rule. (Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An explosion went off Thursday outside Kabul’s airport, where thousands of people have flocked as they try to flee the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. Officials offered no casualty count, but a witness said several people appeared to have been killed or wounded.

Western nations had warned earlier in the day of a possible attack at the airport in the waning days of a massive airlift. Suspicion for any attack targeting the crowds would likely fall on the Islamic State group and not the Taliban, who have been deployed at the airport’s gates trying to control the mass of people.

The Pentagon confirmed the blast, with no immediate word on casualties. 

Adam Khan, an Afghan waiting outside the airport, said the explosion went off in a crowd of people waiting to enter the airport. Khan, who said he was standing about 30 meters (yards) away, said several people appeared to have been killed or wounded, including some who lost body parts.

Several countries urged people to avoid the airport earlier in the day, with one saying there was a threat of a suicide bombing. But just days — or even hours for some nations — before the evacuation effort ends, few appeared to heed the call.

Over the last week, the airport has been the scene of some of the most searing images of the chaotic end of America’s longest war and the Taliban’s takeover, as flight after flight took off carrying those who fear a return to the militants’ brutal rule.

The security threat that prompted the State Department to urge Americans to move away from the perimeter of the Kabul airport was credible and urgent, the acting U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan said today.

Speaking to ABC News from Kabul, Ross Wilson said he could not discuss specifics of the threat or its current status.

“It was clearly regarded as credible, as imminent, as compelling,” he said.

Ross spoke as the United States worked to get remaining Americans out of the country. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that as many as 1,500 Americans may be awaiting evacuation from Afghanistan amid growing warnings of terrorist threats targeting the airport.

President Joe Biden has set a Tuesday deadline for ending the evacuation.

Asked about news reports that the evacuation could end on Friday, Wilson declined to comment. He said “there are safe ways to get to” the airport for those Americans who still want to leave, and he added that “there undoubtedly will be” some at-risk Afghans who will not get out before Biden’s deadline.

Untold thousands of at-risk Afghans are struggling to get into the airport even as many thousands of other Afghans already have been flown to safety in nearly two weeks of round-the-clock flights.

The airlift continued Thursday despite warnings of vehicle-borne bomb threats near the airport. The White House said 13,400 people had been evacuated in the 24 hours that ended early Thursday morning Washington time. Those included 5,100 people aboard U.S. military planes and 8,300 on coalition and partner aircraft. That was a substantial drop from the 19,000 airlifted by all means the day before.

Several of the Americans working phones and trying to pull strings to get out former Afghan colleagues, women’s advocates, journalists and other vulnerable Afghans said they were still waiting for U.S. action.