KABUL, Afghanistan (AP/WJZ) — Two suicide bombers and gunmen attacked crowds of Afghans flocking to Kabul’s airport Thursday, transforming a scene of desperation into one of horror in the waning days of an airlift for those fleeing the Taliban takeover. The attacks killed at least 60 Afghans and 13 U.S. troops, Afghan and U.S. officials said.
The U.S. general overseeing the evacuation said the attacks would not stop the United States from evacuating Americans and others, and flights out were continuing. Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, said there was a large amount of security at the airport, and alternate routes were being used to get evacuees in. About 5,000 people were awaiting flights on the airfield, McKenzie said.READ MORE: 'This Is 10K People Who Have Died' Maryland Woman Shares Story After Mom Dies From COVID-19, Urges People To Get Vaccinated
The blasts came hours after Western officials warned of a major attack, urging people to leave the airport. But that advice went largely unheeded by Afghans desperate to escape the country in the last few days of an American-led evacuation before the U.S. officially ends its 20-year presence on Aug. 31.
The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the killings on its Amaq news channel. The IS affiliate in Afghanistan is far more radical than the Taliban, who recently took control of the country in a lightning blitz. The Taliban were not believed to have been involved in the attacks and condemned the blasts.
In an emotional speech from the White House, U.S. President Joe Biden said the latest bloodshed would not drive the U.S. out of Afghanistan earlier than scheduled, and that he had instructed the U.S. military to develop plans to strike IS.
“We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay,” Biden said.
U.S. officials initially said 11 Marines and one Navy medic were among those who died. Another service member died hours later. Eighteen service members were wounded and officials warned the toll could grow. More than 140 Afghans were wounded, an Afghan official said.READ MORE: ‘This Loss Is Ours As A City’ Baltimore Hockey Team Mourns Two Young Members, Murdered In East Baltimore Shooting
Maryland U.S. Senator Ben Cardin released a statement following the terrorist attack:
“Today is a hard day. A heinous terrorist attack outside of Kabul airport left dozens of innocent civilians killed and injured. Amongst them were 12 American service members killed and 15 wounded as they were processing U.S. citizens and Afghan allies through the airport.
“I express my deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of our service members and the Afghan civilians harmed by this attack. This attack is a painful reminder of the danger that our brave troops and our diplomats face in helping thousands of American citizens and allies escape. As a nation, we are indebted to their selflessness, courage, and compassion.”
Senator Chris Van Hollen also released a statement:
“My thoughts are with the loved ones of the U.S. service members killed today in Kabul as they sacrificed their own lives to save others – as well as with the families of the innocent Afghan civilians who lost their lives. The U.S. cannot and will not be silent in the face of these attacks – we must bring to justice the terrorists who committed these heinous acts as we work to extract others from harm’s way.
“I am closely tracking the events in Kabul. We must work to establish stability on the ground and remain focused on securing the safety of U.S. citizens, our troops, and our Afghan partners. I’m grateful to all who are contributing to this mission, and I will continue to do everything in my power to support them.”MORE NEWS: Local Small Business Owners Share How American Rescue Plan Funding Helped To Keep Them Afloat
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