Home / News / World /  Kabul airport attack: US forces on alert after 85 killed in ISIS bombing. 10 updates

The US security forces helping to evacuate Afghans are on high alert for more attacks by the Islamic State after a suicide bomber killed 85 people outside of the Kabul airport on Thursday, including 13 US soldiers. 

Two blasts and gunfire was reported outside the gates of the airport, as per news reports. Video shot by Afghan journalists showed dozens of bodies strewn around a canal on the edge of the airport.

It remains unclear if the suicide bombers detonated both blasts or if one was a planted bomb. It has also not been ascertained if ISIS gunmen were involved in the attack or if the firing that followed the blasts was Taliban guards firing into the air to control crowds.

A health official and a Taliban official said the toll of Afghans killed had risen to 72, including 28 Taliban members, although a Taliban spokesman later denied that any of their fighters guarding the airport perimeter had been killed.

Islamic State (ISIS), an enemy of the Islamist Taliban as well as the West, said one of its bombers targeted "translators and collaborators with the American army".

The US military said 13 of its service members were killed and has vowed retribution.

The US deaths were the first in action in Afghanistan in 18 months, a fact likely to be cited by critics who accuse Biden of recklessly abandoning a stable and hard-won status quo by ordering an abrupt pullout.

  • US response

General Frank McKenzie, head of US central command, said US commanders were watching for more attacks by Islamic State, including possible rockets or car bombs targeting the airport.

"We're doing everything we can to be prepared," he said, adding that some intelligence was being shared with the Taliban and that he believed "some attacks have been thwarted by them."

  • US withdrawal from Afghanistan 

US forces are racing to complete their withdrawal from Afghanistan by 31 August. 

President Joe Biden has said that the United States long ago achieved its original rationale for invading the country in 2001: to root out al Qaeda militants and prevent a repeat of the 11 September attacks on the United States that year.

  • US strike on ISIS-K

Biden said he had ordered the Pentagon to plan how to strike ISIS-K, the Islamic State affiliate that claimed responsibility.

"We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay," Biden said during televised comments from the White House.

"I saw bodies and body parts flying in the air like a tornado blowing plastic bags," said one Afghan witness. "That little water flowing in the sewage canal had turned into blood."

Several thousand people were back at the airport fence on Friday, according to a video posted on social media.

  • Staking a claim

British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the threat of attacks would increase as Western troops got closer to completing the huge airlift and leaving.

"The narrative is always going to be, as we leave, certain groups such as ISIS will want to stake a claim that they have driven out the US or the UK," Wallace told Sky News. He also vowed action against ISIS wherever it manifests itself.

A US Central Command spokesperson said 18 soldiers wounded in the attack were "in the process of being geometrically evacuated from Afghanistan on specially equipped C-17s with embarked surgical units".

  • Taliban members killed

A Taliban official lamented the number of its members killed, saying they had lost more men than the Americans, but Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid later said no Taliban were killed in the twin blasts.

  • Western fears

Western countries fear that the Taliban, who once sheltered Osaka bin Laden's al Qaeda before it was ousted from power by the US-led 2001 invasion, will allow Afghanistan to turn again into a haven for militants. The Taliban say they will not let the country be used by terrorists.

ISIS-K was initially confined to areas on the border with Pakistan but has established a second front in the north of the country. The Combating Terrorism Centre at West Point says ISIS-K includes Pakistanis from other militant groups and Uzbek extremists in addition to Afghans.

  • Afghanistan evacuation efforts 

The United States will press on with evacuations despite the threat of further attacks, McKenzie said, noting that there were still about 1,000 U.S. citizens in Afghanistan.

The pace of evacuation flights had accelerated on Friday and American passport holders had been allowed to enter the airport compound, according to a Western security official stationed inside the airport.

In the past 12 days, Western countries have evacuated nearly 100,000 people. But they acknowledge that thousands will be left behind when the last U.S. troops leave at the end of the month.

  • Turkey on Taliban request 

Turkey has not made a final decision on a Taliban request for support to run the Kabul airport after foreign forces withdraw over security concerns. 

Officials told Reuters this week that the Taliban had asked Turkey for technical help to run the airport.

  • Britain evacuation efforts

Britain said Friday that it plans to complete its airlifts out of Afghanistan "in a matter of hours" as the frenzied evacuation effort out of Kabul airport draws to a close.

"We will process those people that we have brought with us, the 1,000 people approximately inside the airfield now," British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told Sky News.

"And we will seek a way to continue to find a few people in the crowd, where we can, but overall the main processing has now closed and we have a matter of hours."

  • China on Kabul airport blast

China said on Friday it strongly condemned the Kabul airport attacks and hoped all parties would take effective measures to ensure a smooth transition.

The country has not received reports of any Chinese nationals being hurt.



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