Minister warns of possible Isis-K attack at Kabul airport within 'hours'

26 August 2021, 08:01 | Updated: 26 August 2021, 09:17

By Asher McShane

Armed forces minister James Heappey told LBC this morning that there is credible and imminent intelligence pointing towards a jihadist terror attack at Kabul airport with "real lethality" that could come as soon as this morning.

His comments come after UK nationals were told not to travel to Kabul airport as the evacuation deadline from Afghanistan approaches.

He told Nick Ferrari this morning: "The intelligence has grown significantly to the point where in all good conscience we couldn't do anything but change the travel advice.

"There is real imminence, there is real credibilty" to the intelligence, he said.

"Imminence as in days?" Nick asked. "Hours," said Mr Heappey. "Hence the urgency of changing the travel advice last night."

There is "real lethality to the plans that we're aware of," he added.

"I was given lines today for what might happen if there was an attack during this media round.

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"We are not doing this unnecessarily, we are not being overly cautious. We're doing this because there is real credibility to the intelligence.

"The horrendous thing is that if you look on the TV you will still see crowds of desperate people still outside the airport and that is hugely challenging."

Evacuation efforts in Afghanistan have grown increasingly desperate due to the fears of terrorism and the rapidly approaching deadline.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) warned of an "ongoing and high threat of terrorist attack" at Hamid Karzai International Airport on Wednesday night.

Officials told UK nationals near the airport to leave and find a place of safety.

Eligible Afghans hoping to seek asylum in the UK are being told to try to reach Afghanistan's border.

On Sunday, US President Joe Biden's national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the threat from the group at the airport was "real, acute" and "persistent".

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace held a briefing with MPs on Wednesday, where he is reported to have said it would be a "better option" for those who still need to leave the country to travel across the border.

Latest figures from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) showed that 11,474 people had been able to leave the country since the evacuation mission Operation Pitting began on August 13.

This includes embassy staff, British nationals, those eligible under the Afghan relocation and assistance policy (Arap) programme, as well as some evacuees from allied countries.

But the end of the operation is rapidly approaching after US President Joe Biden rejected calls from Boris Johnson and other allies to delay his August 31 withdrawal date for the remaining US troops, who are providing security at Kabul airport.

Nearly 2,000 Afghan interpreters and other staff who worked for Britain still need to be evacuated from Afghanistan.