President Joe Biden is being briefed on the bloody attack against Kabul’s airport, the White House said on Thursday, delaying a planned meeting with Israel’s visiting Prime Minister.
“The President has been briefed and he is in the Situation Room,” an official said on condition of anonymity.
Two explosions struck near the main gate of the airport, causing multiple casualties in what the U.S. military labelled a “complex attack”. The attacks come after the U.S. government and its allies raised the alarm on Thursday by warning their citizens to avoid the airport.
One explosion hit the Baron Hotel, about 200 m from the Abbey Gate, which had been used by some western nations as a staging point for evacuations since the airlift began on August 14.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said there were “a number” of U.S. and civilian casualties in the bombings.
British PM Boris Johnson on Thursday convened crisis talks after the explosions , his office announced.
A Downing Street spokesperson said Mr. Johnson had been “updated on the situation at the airport in Kabul” and called a meeting of the COBR emergencies committee for later Thursday.
The Ministry of Defence later said on Twitter that “there have been no reported U.K. military or government casualties.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday allied forces should continue to evacuate as many vulnerable people as they can from Kabul despite what he branded a “horrific terrorist attack”.
Evacuations on priority
“Our priority remains to evacuate as many people to safety as quickly as possible,” he tweeted after two deadly explosions hit crowds on the perimeter of the airport in Afghanistan’s capital.
The attacks hit ahead of an August 31 deadline for U.S. troops to leave the airport, and as allies wind down their rescue operations. Belgium and the Netherlands have already halted their airlift from the airport and other allied countries are to follow suit in the coming hours and days, despite fears that at-risk people will be left behind.
A former Royal Marine who runs an animal shelter in Afghanistan said he and his staff were caught up in the aftermath of the explosion near the Kabul airport.
Paul “Pen” Farthing said the group was outside the airport when the blast occurred on Thursday.
“We’re fine but everything is chaos here at the moment,” he told Britain’s Press Association news agency. “All of a sudden we heard gunshots and our vehicle was targeted, had our driver not turned around he would have been shot in the head by a man with an AK-47.
“We’ve been in the airport, and back out of the airport; the whole thing’s a mess,” he added.
Adam Khan, an Afghan waiting outside the airport, said the explosion went off in a crowd of people waiting to enter the airport. Mr. Khan, who said he was standing about 30 m away, said several people appeared to have been killed or wounded, including some who lost body parts.