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26 August 2021

Explosions at Kabul airport: what we know so far

Western intelligence agencies had warned of an “imminent, credible, lethal threat” of a terrorist attack.

By Ido Vock

Blasts outside Kabul Airport in Afghanistan have resulted in civilian casualties, just days away from the 31 August deadline for the withdrawal of Nato troops. The precise number of injuries and deaths, and whether they include soldiers from Western countries, is still unknown.

According to US officials, the explosions may have been caused by suicide bombs. The bombings are not believed to have breached the perimeter of the airport itself, but detonated on a road leading to the airport where Afghans and foreign citizens had been queuing trying to get in, and outside the nearby Baron Hotel.

The attack came hours after several Western governments – including the US, UK and Australia – warned of an “imminent, credible, lethal threat” of a terrorist attack, and called upon their citizens to immediately leave the vicinity of the airport. Security sources had alerted foreign citizens in Afghanistan to a threat from the Khorasan branch of ISIS, the terror group, which is viscerally opposed to the Taliban.

How the explosions will affect the ongoing evacuation effort remains unclear. Although the process had been winding down, it may be that some militaries believe the increased risk to personnel means they must end their missions early. Thousands of Afghans with the right to leave the country are believed to still be in Kabul, waiting for a seat on a flight.

US President Joe Biden will now face questions about how to respond to the blasts, not least since they have reportedly injured American soldiers. He had previously insisted that there would be no extension to the 31 August deadline for the removal of US troops from Afghanistan. The explosions also raises questions about the ability of Taliban authorities to work with Nato militaries to secure the airport.

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[See also: What will happen to the people left behind in Afghanistan?]

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