At least two explosions have rocked the area outside of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Thursday, the Pentagon has confirmed, claiming at least 30 casualties and further complicating chaotic efforts to evacuate the remaining foreigners and refugees.
The New York Times reports that while the total number of injured and dead have yet to be confirmed, local emergency rooms have taken in at least 30 patients as a result of the blast.
An Italian charity has also reported that it is treating over 60 wounded.
An official with the Taliban had previously said at least 13 people were killed by the blast, including children and a number of guards with the Taliban, reports Reuters.
The Taliban has strongly denounced the attack, which spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said “took place in an area where U.S. forces are responsible for security.”
On Twitter, the Taliban spokesman said his group “is paying close attention to the security and protection of its people, and evil circles will be strictly stopped.”
Meanwhile, a U.S. official said that initial reports say that as many as 5 U.S. service members were also wounded, including one seriously.
At least one of the bombs in what the Pentagon is describing as a “complex attack” was believed to have been set off by an assailant wearing a suicide vest, officials believe.
One of the blasts took place near the airport’s Abbey Gate and was followed by small arms fire, while the other took place at the nearby Baron Hotel, according to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.
“We can confirm that the explosion at the Abbey Gate was the result of a complex attack that resulted in a number of US & civilian casualties,” Kirby wrote on Twitter. “We can also confirm at least one other explosion at or near the Baron Hotel, a short distance from Abbey Gate.”
The attacks appear to be a terrible confirmation of fears from the U.S. and its allies over ongoing threats from the Islamic State group’s local affiliate, the Islamic State Khorasan or ISIS-K, which has been vying with the Taliban to establish its presence in Afghanistan.
The bombings are believed to have been carried out by a local affiliate of the Islamic State group, according to experts.
“The more we learn about the attacks the more it is apparent that #ISIS Khorasan Province carried out this attack, and may still carry out more,” wrote Rita Katz, director of the organization SITE Intelligence Group that tracks terrorist threats, on Twitter. “Since Taliban took over, the group has repeatedly warned of upcoming attacks in Afghanistan, and Kabul has long been a top target.”
In recent days, officials have been expressing worry over the possibility that the Islamic State group would launch an attack on the massive undertaking to airlift foreign nationals and their families, as well as some Afghans, from the city following the city’s swift fall to the Taliban on Aug. 15.
A Western diplomat in Kabul said that despite warnings, the airport gates areas have been “incredibly crowded” with thronging masses of evacuees.
The operation by the U.S. and its allies has been one of the largest air evacuations in history, with some 95,700 people being airlifted from the Kabul airport, the White House said on Thursday.
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