US officials in Kabul have confirmed that at least 60 Afghan citizens, including women and children, have been killed in a suicide bombing outside Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport, while the Pentagon announced that “12 US service members were killed and 15 others were wounded.”
Afghan health officials also confirmed that dozens of local civilians were seriously injured by the blast, which US officials have attributed to an ISIS splinter group in Afghanistan.
Reports also indicate all NATO troops have been ordered to leave the airport gates immediately.
The Taliban has strongly condemned the attack, with officials blaming the presence of foreign forces in the country for it. Speaking to Turkish TV on Thursday, Abdul Qahar Balkhi, a member of the Taliban’s cultural commission, said: “As soon as the airport situation is figured out and the foreign forces leave, we will not have such attacks anymore. It is because of the presence of foreign forces that such attacks take place.”
Two explosions were reported earlier at one of the main entrances to Kabul’s international airport.
According to the US Embassy in Kabul, the explosions took place at the airport’s Abbey Gate, an entrance the embassy had specifically asked US citizens to avoid citing fears of an attack.
Eyewitnesses outside the airport said the explosion went off in the middle of a crowd of hundreds who were waiting to enter the airport.
No group has taken responsibility for the attacks as of yet, but British and Turkish military sources say that immediate suspicion falls on the Islamic State’s (ISIS) Afghan affiliate – known as the ‘Khorasan State,’ or ISIS-K.
On 25 August, the US Embassy in Afghanistan issued a security alert for the airport, specifically asking US citizens to immediately leave Abbey Gate, East Gate, and North Gate.
The attack comes just five days before US and NATO troops are expected to leave the country. Since the Taliban’s victory on 15 August over the US occupation of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai International Airport has been the scene of growing chaos as Western forces scramble to evacuate their personnel along with some Afghan citizens.