At least 60 dead, 140 injured in blasts near Kabul airport: media
Written by tokyoclub on August 27, 2021
At least 60 people were killed and around 140 injured in two explosions that occurred Thursday outside the airport of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul, U.S. media reported, as many countries strive to evacuate their citizens following the Taliban’s recent seizure of power in the war-torn country.
The Pentagon said 12 U.S. military service members died and 15 were injured. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the deadly attacks later in the day through its affiliate news website.
The blasts, believed to be suicide bombings by an Islamic State group affiliate, took place just days ahead of the Aug. 31 deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan as chaotic evacuation operations continue at the airport.
Smoke rises from explosion outside the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Aug. 26, 2021. (AP/Kyodo)
Calling the U.S. military service members “heroes” and describing feeling “outraged and heartbroken” by their deaths, President Joe Biden pledged to hold those responsible for the deadly terrorist attacks accountable, saying, “We will not forgive, we will not forget, we will hunt you down and make you pay.”
In a press conference at the White House, Biden stressed that the United States will not be deterred by terrorists, saying, “America will not be intimidated.”
“There has been complete unanimity from every commander on the objectives of this mission and the best way to achieve those objectives,” Biden said, vowing that the evacuation will continue. “We will rescue the Americans in there, we will get our Afghan allies out, and our mission will go on.”
“I’ve also ordered my commanders to develop operational plans to strike ISIS-K assets, leadership and facilities,” he added, referring to the Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan. “We will respond with force and precision at our time, at the place we choose, in the moment of our choosing.”
“Here’s what you need to know: these ISIS terrorists will not win.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also mourned the military losses in a statement, saying “Terrorists took their lives at the very moment these troops were trying to save the lives of others.”
Following the blasts, the White House announced that a meeting between President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has been postponed to Friday from Thursday. Biden was briefed on the attacks in Kabul earlier in the day.
Western nations had warned of a possible attack on the airport by Afghanistan’s Islamic State group affiliate in the final days of the massive evacuation operation.
The international airport in Kabul has been flooded by people seeking to escape from the Islamist group that returned to power earlier this month after being ousted by U.S.-led forces in 2001.
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul on Wednesday urged American nationals not to approach the airport, citing security concerns.
Foreign governments including Japan are rushing to airlift citizens out of the country, with Western media reporting that some European countries and Canada are completing evacuation operations or planning to do so before the Aug. 31 deadline amid deteriorating security near the airport.
Japan’s Self-Defense Forces have sent three aircraft with the aim of completing the evacuation of Japanese and local staff working at the Japanese embassy and other organizations by the end of the day on Friday.
The Taliban, which controlled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, has promised to uphold women’s rights “within the framework of Islam,” although concerns persist that liberties will be significantly eroded under their strict implementation of shariah law.
The United States began the war in Afghanistan against the al-Qaida organization behind the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 as well as the Taliban, which harbored the group.
In April this year, Biden announced that he would withdraw all the U.S. troops in Afghanistan by the upcoming 20th anniversary of the terror attacks, saying it was “time to end America’s longest war.” In July, the deadline was moved up to Aug. 31.
But as the Taliban seized city after city before taking control of Kabul on Aug. 15, Afghanistan’s security forces collapsed in a matter of days and President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.