The Pentagon says an explosion Thursday at the Abbey Gate of the Kabul airport was “the result of a complex attack that resulted in a number of U.S. and civilian injuries.”
“We can also confirm at least one other explosion at or near the Baron Hotel, a short distance from Abbey Gate,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Twitter.
Thousands of people have flocked to the airport in recent days trying to leave the country following the Taliban takeover Afghanistan.
A senior Taliban source confirmed to VOA that a suicide bomber blew himself up in an area outside the airport where large number of people, including women were present. No one has claimed responsibility for the blast.
Intelligence sources told VOA there was a second explosion near the Baron Hotel, about 200 meters from an airport gate. There were no further details.
Western governments had warned earlier Thursday of the threat of a terror attack at the airport and said those gathered in the area seeking evacuation from the country should move to a safe location.
“Because of security threats outside the gates of Kabul airport, we are advising U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to the airport and to avoid airport gates at this time unless you receive individual instructions from a U.S. government representative to do so,” the U.S. Embassy in Kabul said in a statement. “U.S. citizens who are at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately.”
Several of those wounded Thursday arrived at Kabul’s Emergency Hospital, run by an international NGO that treats victims of war and landmines. Afghan news channels tweeted pictures of civilians transporting their wounded in wheelbarrows.
British Armed Forces Minister James Heappey told BBC radio, “There is now a very, very credible reporting of an imminent attack.”
Australia’s Foreign Affairs and Trade Department also cited an “ongoing and very high threat of terrorist attack,” while Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said his government ended its evacuation operations after hearing from the United States and other sources about a possible attack.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated Wednesday that the United States sees a potential threat from the Islamic State group’s affiliate in Afghanistan.
“It’s hard to overstate the complexity and the danger of this effort,” Blinken said at the State Department. “We’re operating in a hostile environment in a city and country now controlled by the Taliban, with the very real possibility of an ISIS-K attack. We’re taking every precaution, but this is very high-risk.”
The United States is pledging to continue efforts to extricate Americans, U.S. permanent residents, allies and other vulnerable Afghans, even if it means going past the end-of-the-month deadline for American forces to leave Afghanistan.
There is “no deadline in getting out Americans and Afghans who want to leave past August 31,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
“They will not be forgotten,” Blinken emphasized as he responded to reporters’ questions. “And as I said, we will use every diplomatic, economic assistance tool at our disposal to pressure the Taliban to let people leave the country.”
The White House said Thursday that since August 14, the United States has evacuated or helped evacuate about 95,700 people on U.S. military and coalition flights.
Throughout Wednesday at the State Department, the Pentagon and the White House, officials continued to rebut criticism about chaos at the gates of Kabul’s airport.
“We’re on track to have the largest U.S. airlift in history. And I think that speaks for itself,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters.
As many as 1,500 American civilians remain in Afghanistan. There were about 6,000 Americans in Afghanistan on August 14, according to Blinken, when Taliban insurgents took military control of the country and evacuations began. But since then, he said, at least 4,500 Americans have been airlifted out of the country, including 500 in the past day.
About 10,000 people hoping to escape the country are currently crammed in the airport in Kabul, according to U.S. officials who say a total of 90 U.S. military and international flights flew from Kabul in the past day.
It “will not be an American responsibility” to control security at the airport after August 31, according to Pentagon spokesperson Kirby.
VOA’s Steve Herman, Ayaz Gul, Ayesha Tanzeem and Carla Babb contributed to this report.