Suicide bombers struck the crowded gates of Kabul airport with at least two explosions on Thursday, causing a bloodbath among civilians. According to western media sources, including BBC, at least 60 people and 140 were reportedly injured in the blasts.
There was no complete death toll, but video images uploaded by Afghan journalists showed dozens of bodies of people killed in tightly packed crowds outside the airport.
A watery ditch by the airport fence was filled with bloodsoaked corpses, some being fished out and laid in heaps on the canal side while wailing civilians searched for loved ones. The Pentagon said “a number” of American service members were killed. Sources said at least four marines were dead and three wounded.
Several Western countries said the airlift of civilians was now effectively over, with the United States having sealed the gates of the airport leaving no way out for tens of thousands of Afghans who worked for the West through two decades of war.
A Taliban official said at least 13 people including children had been killed in the attack and 52 were wounded, though it was clear from video footage that those figures were far from complete. One surgical hospital run by an Italian charity said it alone was treating more than 60 wounded.
The explosions took place amid the crowds outside the airport who have been massing for days 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.
A witness who gave his name as Jamshed said he went to the airport in the hope of getting a visa for the United States.
“There was a very strong and powerful suicide attack, in the middle of the people. Many were killed, including Americans,” he said.
Zubair, a 24 year-old civil engineer, who had been trying for a nearly week to get inside the airport with a cousin who had papers authorising him to travel to the United States, said he was 50 metres from the first of two bombers who detonated explosives at the gate.
“Men, women and children were screaming. I saw many injured people — men, women and children — being loaded into private vehicles and taken toward the hospitals,” he said. After the explosions there was gunfire.
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 there were two explosions in a crowded area managed by U.S. forces. “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 it as the work of “evil circles” who would be suppressed once the foreign troops leave.
“The doors at the airport are now closed and it is no longer possible to get people in,” Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide said on Thursday.
“We wish we could have stayed longer and rescued everyone,” the acting chief of Canada’s defence staff, General Wayne Eyre, told reporters.
The U.S. troops killed on Thursday were the first to die in action in Afghanistan in 18 months.
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