Two powerful explosions outside Kabul airport Thursday killed at least six people, just hours after after Western nations warned of an imminent terror threat and as thousands of people gathered hoping for a flight out of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
The blasts came as the August 31 deadline looms for the United States to withdraw its troops, and for Western countries to end a massive airlift that has already evacuated nearly 100,000 people.
The city’s main Emergency Hospital said six bodies had been brought in, and they had also treated more than 30 people for injuries. A second city hospital said it had tended to another 60 patients.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a tweet there had been US casualties in the “complex attack.”
Graphic video shared on social media showed bodies lying semi-submerged in a canal adjacent to the airport, where thousands have gathered since the Taliban takeover of August 15 hoping for a flight out.
US President Joe Biden had earlier cited an “acute” terrorist threat from the regional chapter of the Islamic State jihadist group.
“When people heard the [first[ explosion there was total panic,” a witness told AFP on condition of anonymity. “The Taliban then started firing in the air to disperse the crowd. I saw a man rushing with an injured baby in his hands.”
The US government and its allies had raised the alarm earlier in the day with a series of advisories warning their citizens to avoid the airport.
No specifics were given, but Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo referred to a threat from suicide bombers.
London also issued a warning to its citizens, saying “if you can leave Afghanistan safely by other means, you should do so immediately.”
Some of the Afghans massed outside the airport have foreign passports, visas or eligibility to travel, but most do not.
Several people have died in the chaos around the airport in recent days.
Despite the harrowing scenes, the Taliban have ruled out any extension to next Tuesday’s deadline to pull out foreign troops, describing it as “a red line”.
A Taliban spokesman told AFP Thursday they were still gathering information about the airport blasts and could provide no further comment.