Kabul airport blasts: Australia halts ongoing evacuation mission amid fears of further attacks
Australia has suspended an evacuation operation as fears of more attacks remained a day after suicide bombers were killed 72 Afghan nationals including 28 Taliban members and 13 US soldiers outside Kabul’s Hamid Karzai international airport.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters on Friday that Australian troops had evacuated just hours before the attack on Kabul airport and that the evacuation of civilians from Afghanistan was underway cannot continue due to current security concerns.
He said Australia had so far evacuated 4,100 people from Kabul, including Australians and Afghans, while another 800 were arriving in Australia.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne has urged Australians and those with Australian visas to stay away from Kabul airport.
It should be noted that Australia is a member of the NATO military alliance of Western countries and more than 39,000 of its personnel served during the Afghan war.
Forty-one Australian soldiers have been killed in the nearly 20-year-old war.
Note that, US Central Command has confirmed that 13 American soldiers were killed and 18 were wounded in Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport attacks.
An Afghan health official and a Taliban official said the toll of Afghan nationals killed in attacks had risen to 72, including 28 Taliban members, although a Taliban spokesman later denied that any of Taliban fighters guarding the Hamid Karzai international airport perimeter had been killed, Reuters reported.
A spokesman for the US Central Command said that 18 soldiers were also wounded in the attack, who are being evacuated from Afghanistan with the help of C-17 aircraft equipped with surgical units.
It is pertinent to mention here that these are the first U.S. combat deaths in Afghanistan since February 2020 and the most in a single day since 2011.
Earlier, General Kenneth Mckenzie, commander of the US Central Command, told reporters that they are continuing their mission to evacuate the Americans adding that no ISIS terrorism can stand in the way of the process.
He said, “Despite this attack, we are continuing the mission. The evacuation, at best speed, and as of today, we have approximately 5,000 evacuees on the ramp awaiting airlift. Since August 14, we have evacuated more than 104,000 civilians from Hamid Karzai International Airport.”
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby was also present during the briefing. The top US official said the attacks were believed to have been carried out by an ISIS (Khorasan) group.
John Kirby said both blasts took place near the airport, not far from the hotel.
In response to a question, General Mckenzie clarified that there are currently highly professional US military personnel stationed at Kabul Airport and that we will continue the mission diligently.
Regarding the security system outside the airport, General Mackenzie said that the area outside was under Taliban control adding that efforts were being made to ascertain the details of the blasts.
The Islamic State (Khorasan) faction has claimed responsibility for the bombings, according to newspaper reports.
Earlier, a US official said it was a complex attack, believed to have been carried out by an ISIS group. The Islamic State group in Afghanistan is said to be more conservative than the Taliban.
In a statement, the Taliban strongly condemned the attack.
Taliban’s spokesperson for International media Suhail Shaheen said on Twitter, “the Islamic Emirate strongly condemns the bombing of civilians at Kabul airport, which took place in an area where US forces are responsible for security.”
“The Islamic Emirate is paying close attention to the security and protection of its people,” the spokesperson added.
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