Scores dead as explosions rock Kabul airport
An explosion went off Thursday outside Kabul’s airport, where thousands of people have flocked as they try to flee the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
Western nations had warned of a possible attack there in the waning days of a massive airlift. The Pentagon confirmed the blast, with no immediate word on casualties.
In the 11 days since the Taliban took Kabul, the US and its allies have mounted one of the biggest air evacuations in history, bringing out more than 88,000 people. The US military says planes are taking off about every 39 minutes.
Taliban fighters have been guarding the perimeter of the airport, thronged by thousands of people trying to flee a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.
Al Jazeera’s Charlotte Bellis, reporting from Kabul, said about 1,500 US passport holders evacuation in the capital.
“The US and the Taliban have a deal. The Taliban are under strict instructions not to let anyone through without a passport, without a green card, without verified documents and there is confusion about what a verified document looks like,” she said.
She also said Kandahar airport has been reopened, giving hope that international flights will be possible even if Kabul airport closes down or has an interruption.
Meanwhile, there is a mounting humanitarian crisis in the country, with the World Food Programme saying about 14 million people are facing severe hunger in the nation of about 39 million.
Germany has completed its military evacuation operation from Kabul airport, a security source told Reuters news agency.
Al Jazeera’s correspondent Charlotte Belis reported from Kabul that it was still unclear at the moment who may have set the explosion off outside the airport, that has reportedly killed at least 11 people.
“One Taliban contact told me that they believe that the Americans were destroying equipment at the time. In contrast to that, we understand the ISIL threat was quite high here,” Belis said.
“That’s one of the reasons that many countries have said they have stopped their evacuations.
The Americans also put out an alert with the Taliban saying today that no one can come near the airport because the ISIL threat is high; because they are looking at doing specifically car bombings in and around the airport to inflict ‘maximum damage’, as a Taliban contact told me today. Whether or not this is ISIL(ISIS) or something else, it’s still unclear.”
Al Jazeera’s correspondent Ali M Latifi reported the explosion outside Kabul airport was the first such incident since the Taliban took over.
“They [Taliban] will have to rally any forces and support they have to respond to the situation and tend to any possible casualties,” he tweeted.
Britain’s defence ministry said it was working urgently to establish what had happened at Kabul airport following reports of an explosion.
“We are working urgently to establish what has happened in Kabul and its impact on the ongoing evacuation effort,” the defence ministry said on Twitter. - Agencies