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Afghanistan crisis: Evacuation flights gather pace at Kabul airport; Russia says danger in Afghanistan remains high and more

Here are the top developments from Afghanistan where a twin suicide bombing in the capital city killed over 100, including US marines.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: August 27, 2021 10:34:26 pm
Wounded Afghan men receive treatment at a hospital after yesterday's explosions outside airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on Aug. 27, 2021. (Reuters)

A day after two two suicide bombings targeted the thousands of desperate people fleeing the Taliban and killed more than 180, evacuation flights from Afghanistan resumed with new urgency on Friday.

According to the Associated Press, as the call to prayer echoed through Kabul along with the roar of departing planes, the anxious crowd outside the airport was as large as ever. Dozens of Taliban members carrying heavy weapons patrolled one area about 500 meters (1,600 feet) from the airport to prevent anyone from venturing beyond.

In what was the deadliest day for American forces in Afghanistan since August 2011, the bombings near Kabul’s Hamid Karzai Internation Airport on Thursday killed at least 100 Afghans and 13 US troops, Afghan and American officials said.

The Afghan offshoot of the terror organisation “Islamic State,” known as ISIS-Khorasan, IS-K or ISIS-K claimed responsibility for the attacks. The group takes its name from the Khorasan Province, an area that once included wide swathes of Afghanistan, Iran and central Asia in the Middle Ages.

A person wounded in a bomb blast outside the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021, arrives at a hospital in Kabul. (The New York Times)

Afghan officials warned that the actual toll could be higher, with morgues stretched to capacity and the possibility that relatives are taking bodies away from the scene.

The news agency said that at least 10 bodies lay on the grounds outside Kabul’s Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital, where relatives said the mortuary could take no more. . Afghans said many of the dead are unclaimed because family members are travelling from distant provinces.

Kabul attack was carried out by one suicide bomber: Pentagon

The Pentagon said on Friday that a deadly attack at the gate to Kabul airport in Afghanistan yesterday was carried out by one suicide bomber, not two.

The Pentagon logo is seen behind the podium in the briefing room at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, US. (Reuters)

“I can confirm for you that we do not believe that there was a second explosion at or near the Baron Hotel, that it was one suicide bomber,” Army Major General William Taylor was quoted as saying by Reuters.

China condemns Kabul attacks, keeps embassy open

China says it condemns the attacks on Kabul airport and is “ready to work with the international community to address the threat of terrorism and prevent Afghanistan from becoming a source of terrorism again”.

The comments from Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Friday afternoon were Beijing’s first comments on the suicide bombings near the Kabul airport. The spokesperson said that no Chinese national was killed or injured in the attacks and that China had advised its citizens in the country to “strengthen security precautions.”

Kabul: Afghans lie on beds at a hospital after they were wounded in the deadly attacks outside the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, August 27, 2021. (AP)

Despite the chaos since the Taliban took over, China has kept its embassy in Kabul open and recently hosted talks between the Taliban and its ambassador. “The head of the Afghan Taliban has made it clear to China that he will never allow any forces to use Afghan territory to do things detrimental to China,” Zhao was quoted as saying by AP.

Russia says danger in Afghanistan remains high

The Kremlin has said that danger remained high for everyone in Afghanistan after the Kabul airport attack and that Islamic State and other militant groups were trying to capitalise on the chaos in the country.

Kabul blast Smoke rises from explosion outside the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021. The explosion went off outside Kabul airport, where thousands of people have flocked as they try to flee the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Wali Sabawoon)

Russia’s intelligence services are working round the clock to prevent any spillover into neighbouring regions, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call.

UK says it’s in last stages of Kabul evacuations

The British Defence Ministry said its forces have entered the final stages of evacuating people from Kabul’s airport and have closed processing facilities.

 

The effort would now focus on evacuating British nationals and others who have already been cleared to leave and are already at the airport, the ministry said. No further people would be called forward to the airport for evacuation, it said.

“It is with deep regret that not everyone has been able to be evacuated during this process,” Defence Minister Ben Wallace said in a statement.

‘Will hunt you down’: Biden warns Kabul airport attackers

On Thursday, US President Joe Biden vowed to complete the evacuation of American citizens and others from Afghanistan despite the deadly suicide bomb attacks at the Kabul airport. He also promised to avenge the deaths, declaring to the extremists responsible: “We will hunt you down and make you pay.”

President Joe Biden pauses as he listens to a question about the bombings at the Kabul airport that killed at least 13 US  service members, from the East Room of the White House, Thursday, August 26, 2021, in Washington. (AP)

Speaking with emotion from the White House, Biden said the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate was to blame for the attacks that killed 13 American service members and many more Afghan civilians. He said there was no evidence they colluded with the Taliban, who now control the country.

“We have some reason to believe we know who they are,” he said of the bombers and gunmen involved. “Not certain.”

He said he had instructed military commanders to develop plans to strike IS “assets, leadership and facilities.”

“We will respond with force and precision at our time, at the place of our choosing,” Biden said, adding, “These ISIS terrorists will not win. We will rescue the Americans; we will get our Afghan allies out, and our mission will go on. America will not be intimidated.”

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