Afghanistan: British nationals, US troops and Afghans die in Kabul airport suicide attack

27 August 2021, 15:59 | Updated: 27 August 2021, 19:33

  • The US military has said only one suicide bomber was involved in Thursday's attack at Kabul airport's gate
  • Previously, it was thought two explosions took place at Kabul airport, one at the gate and one at a hotel where evacuees are processed
  • No exact number on casualties has been made, but at least 73 people are thought to have died including 3 British nationals, one of whom was a child
  • 13 US troops died in the attack
  • Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the suicide blasts
  • Gunmen were also said to be part of the assault
  • The Taliban has condemned the attack, understood to have been carried out by Isis-K
Multiple casualties have been reported from Kabul airport
Multiple casualties have been reported from Kabul airport. Picture: Getty

By Will Taylor

Three British nationals, 13 US troops and more than 70 Afghans died in a suicide attack targeting refugees at Kabul airport.

More than 150 people were injured, including 18 US service personnel, in a "complex attack" on Thursday outside Hamid Karzai International Airport.

The attack was made by a suicide bomber at an airport gate, the US military said on Friday. Initially, two explosions were reported but a Pentagon official said that report became "garbled" during the incident.

The assault is understood to have been carried out by an affiliate of the so-called Islamic State in Afghanistan. Isis has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The Isis offshoot Isis-K is strongly suspected as being responsible for the blast.

It was initially reported one blast happened at the airport's Abbey Gate, while a second occurred nearby around the Baron Hotel, where people are being processed for evacuation. It is understood the second did not take place.

Further attacks are feared by US forces.

A total of 13 US military personnel have been reported as dead, with a further 18 injured.

The Taliban said that more than 70 civilians had been killed and more than 140 were injured.

Speaking on Thursday, Boris Johnson described the attack as "barbaric" but confirmed evacuations would continue.

"I want to stress that this threat of a terrorist attack is one of the constraints that we've been operating under in Operation Pitting, in the big extraction that's been going on, and we've been ready for it, we've been prepared for it," he said.

"And I want to stress that we're going to continue with that operation - and we're now coming towards the end of it, to the very end of it, in any event."

Mr Johnson added that the overwhelming majority of eligible people had been flown out.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement: "This evening I called US secretary of state Antony Blinken to express our sorrow that US troops lost their lives in Kabul today and that more have been injured. They paid the ultimate sacrifice while helping others reach safety.

"I also want to extend my condolences to the families of all those Afghans killed or injured. It is tragic that as they sought safety they have suffered at the hands of terrorists."

A US Department of Defence spokesman said: "We can confirm that a number of U.S. service members were killed in today’s complex attack at Kabul airport.

"A number of others are being treated for wounds. We also know that a number of Afghans fell victim to this heinous attack. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the loved ones and teammates of all those killed and injured."

The US military confirmed on Thursday that around 1,000 Americans were still in Afghanistan.

CNN quoted General Kenneth McKenzie as saying more attacks are expected, that "we're doing everything we can" to stop them and that the US would take action against those responsible.

The evacuations will continue.

The attack came as the UK and US warned an attack at the airport appeared likely - with many suggesting the Isis group in Afghanistan, "Isis-K", was planning an assault as people try to escape Taliban rule.

The Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said his group "strongly condemns" the attack. His group is a rival of Isis-K, and the two have fought each other.

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

Read more: New Isis threat at Kabul airport as US tells citizens to avoid going unless instructed

Tory MP Nus Ghani said she was on the phone to a person outside Kabul airport when the explosion happened.

She tweeted: "Explosion at Kabul airport. I was on the phone to an Afghan outside the airport when he heard the explosion.

"Praying that he gets away safely and we get his family safe passage out of this nightmare."

More than 80,000 people have been flown out of Afghanistan after the last, internationally-recognised government crumbled during the Taliban's advance.

While international forces have provided security at the airport as refugees and foreigners are processed, the Taliban effectively controls the outer area.

They had allowed foreigners to keep travelling to the airport, the group said, but told Afghans not to travel and instead stay at home instead of fleeing their rule.

Earlier on Thursday, armed forces minister James Heappey told LBC a jihadist assault with "real lethality" could occur.

British nationals had already been told not to travel to Hamid Karzai International.

Mr Heappey told Nick Ferrari: "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 added.

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

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

"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."