Washington (AP) – The terrorist branch of the Islamic State (IS) militia, active in Afghanistan, has claimed responsibility for the bombing at Kabul airport.
This was announced by IS-Khorasan, as ISIS calls itself in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in the evening with a message from ISIS spokesman Amak that was distributed over the internet.
Twelve American soldiers were killed in the single attack. The BBC reported a total of 60 deaths, citing a health services official. A Taliban spokesman told the dpa on Friday about 13 to 20 civilians killed. This emerges from hospital reports. The final number of victims will be published in due course.
Daesh appeared in Afghanistan in early 2015. It wants to establish a “province” called IS-Khorasan and on Pakistani territory and has carried out attacks mainly against Shiite targets. US and Afghan security forces have attacked its positions several times a week in recent years. Nonetheless, ISIS continued to carry out serious attacks, stepped up recruitment and also attempted to gain a foothold in northern Afghanistan.
Despite great ideological proximity, ISIS is hostile to the Taliban, who seized power in Afghanistan a good week ago. Previously, among others, US President Joe Biden specifically warned of an attack by a local ISIS branch in Afghanistan.
13 American soldiers killed
US General Kenneth McKenzie, who heads US Central Command Centcom, reported in a video link to Pentagon reporters 12 US soldiers killed. 15 American soldiers were injured.
The US armed forces are continuing the evacuation mission in Kabul even after the devastating terrorist attack at the airport in the Afghan capital. “We are continuing the work,” McKenzie said.
Attack by two suicide bombers
According to the US Department of Defense, at least two suicide bombers blew themselves up during the terrorist attack. After the detonations, a number of fighters from the Islamic State (IS) terrorist militia opened fire on civilians and soldiers, McKenzie said.
The US military expects more terrorist attacks. “We believe it is their desire to continue these attacks and we expect these attacks will continue,” McKenzie said. “We are doing everything possible to prepare for these attacks,” he said. There are also talks with the Taliban, who are responsible for security outside the airport. It was an “extremely active threat situation” in which further attacks were to be expected, the general said.
Reactions from Europe
Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) spoke of one or more suicide bombers and condemned the bloody act as “absolutely despicable”.
French President Emmanuel Macron also condemned the terrorist attacks “in the strongest possible terms”. The president expressed his condolences to the families of the American and Afghan victims and his support for the wounded, he said Thursday evening in a message from the Elysee Palace. At the same time, Macron underlined the “heroic commitment” of those who tried to ensure the success of the evacuation operations on the spot. “France will go all the way and will continue its humanitarian and protection efforts in favor of threatened Afghans.”
German soldiers, diplomats and police flew
Meanwhile, the German Air Force has transported all remaining Bundeswehr soldiers, diplomats and police officers from the state of crisis, as Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (CDU ) after starting the last machine.
The exact number of victims of the attack was initially open. Many deaths have been seen on videos; it was therefore feared that the number of victims would increase significantly. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby spoke on Twitter of a “complex attack”. Merkel said the terrorists were targeting people waiting outside the airport gates. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) said: “We currently have no information on German casualties.”
According to former US President Donald Trump, the terrorist attack in Kabul “should never have taken place.” He expressed his condolences to the families of the killed and injured soldiers and the relatives of the civilian victims, Trump said Thursday. “This tragedy should never have happened, which makes our grief even greater and more difficult to understand,” Trump said.
Since the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan in mid-August, the Republican had sent statements almost every day in which he criticized his successor, Democrat Joe Biden. In his most recent statement on the attack, however, there was no overt political attack or blame.
Taliban condemn “cruel incident”
Taliban Politburo spokesman Suhail Shahin said the cruel incident was strongly condemned and everything would be done to bring those responsible to justice. He confirmed that two explosions occurred. According to initial reports, one took place at one of the airport gates and another at a nearby hotel.
Local television station Tolo-News posted images on Twitter showing how injured people are being carried in wheelbarrows. An eyewitness told the TV station that the explosion was very powerful. Some people fell into the water – there is a long ditch at a gate – and several foreign soldiers fell to the ground.
Well-connected Afghan journalist Bilal Sarwari wrote on Twitter that a suicide bomber blew himself up in a large crowd. At least one other assailant then opened fire. Sarwari cited several eyewitnesses in the area.
The security situation around the airport had deteriorated considerably again recently. The Bundeswehr had already reported on Tuesday that there were a growing number of potential suicide bombers from the Islamic State (IS) terrorist organization in Kabul. US President Joe Biden made a similar statement. A local branch of ISIS tries to attack the airport almost every day, he said. The terrorist militia is also a “declared enemy” of the Taliban. Among other things, Biden justified his adherence to the plan to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan by August 31 by this terrorist threat.
Dramatic conditions around the airport
Since the Taliban came to power, thousands of people have tried to flee abroad for fear of repression. For more than a week, they have gathered around different entrances to the airport to board an evacuation flight. The conditions around the airport were dire. The rush has escalated further, an eyewitness reported to the German News Agency. People stand in front of a door “as close to each other as bricks in a wall,” and they don’t move forward a yard.
After the explosion, US soldiers used tear gas at another airport gate to separate people, said a Kabul resident at the gate. He estimated that at the time, 2,000 to 4,000 people were waiting for an evacuation flight overseas. Several women and girls were injured by tear gas.
Several assassins intercepted
Some international partners had asked the US to extend the mission in order to have more time for evacuations. The military operation depends on American troops. Taliban fighters have already intercepted and killed several IS attackers at their checkpoints near the airport, according to military sources.
Bundeswehr Inspector General Eberhard Zorn said on Thursday that the Bundeswehr had transported 5,200 people from 45 countries since the mission began on August 16. Among them are 4,200 Afghans and 505 German citizens.
Kramp-Karrenbauer and Merkel stressed that the federal government will continue to try to allow people in need of protection to leave the country. “We are ending the airlift today,” Merkel said. “We are working hard to negotiate terms with the Taliban on how further departures will be possible.”
Guterres invites to crisis meetings
In view of the chaotic and tense security situation in Afghanistan, UN Secretary General António Guterres has invited the veto powers to a crisis meeting. According to diplomatic circles, the ambassadors of the United States, China, Russia, Great Britain and France will meet with the UN chief on Monday in New York to discuss the situation.
Belgium, Denmark, Poland and Canada, among others, have now stopped their evacuations, just like Germany, France planned to do on Friday. The US military again flew more than 13,000 people in 24 hours. According to the White House, the United States and its partners have transported more than 95,000 people. More than 14,500 evacuees landed on Thursday at the US airbase in Ramstein, Palatinate.
Merkel cancels trip to Israel
Chancellor Angela Merkel has canceled her trip to Israel scheduled for Saturday to Monday due to the dramatic developments in Afghanistan. The decision was taken in consultation with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet, government spokesman Steffen Seibert said.
Meanwhile, more and more Afghans are leaving for Pakistan. At least 10,000 Afghans crossed the border at Spin Boldak / Chaman every day, a dpa border official said. Previously, there were about 4,000 on normal days. Most are on their way to relatives in towns and regions not far from the border. Pakistan has hosted millions of Afghan refugees for 40 years. There are currently 1.4 million Afghans officially registered as refugees and around 600,000 undocumented Afghans.
The Balkan countries, Albania and Kosovo, have also declared their readiness to welcome around 6,000 people, at least temporarily. EU interior ministers want to discuss the situation in Afghanistan next Tuesday. It should also be about migration to Europe.