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Paratroopers assigned to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division conduct security operations as they continue to help facilitate the evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on Wednesday, Aug 25, 2021.
Paratroopers assigned to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division conduct security operations as they continue to help facilitate the evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on Wednesday, Aug 25, 2021. (Jillian G. Hix/U.S. Army )

ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan claims responsibility for attack

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The Islamic State group's affiliate in Afghanistan has claimed responsibility for the deadly attacks outside the Kabul airport.

Two suicide bombers and gunmen attacked crowds of Afghans flocking to Kabul's airport on Thursday, killing at least 60 Afghans and 13 U.S. troops, Afghan and U.S. officials said.

The IS branch, known as The Islamic State-Khorasan Province after a name for the region from antiquity, said in its claim of responsibility that it targeted American troops and their Afghan allies. The affiliate 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.

The statement carried a photo of what the militant group said was the bomber who carried out the attack. The image shows the alleged attacker standing with the explosive belt in front of the black IS flag with a black cloth covering his face, only his eyes showing.

The statement made no mention of a second suicide bomber or gunmen. The claim could not be independently verified.

IS also said the bomber managed to get past Taliban security checkpoints to come within 5 meters of a gathering of U.S. soldiers, translators and collaborators before detonating his explosives. It said Taliban were also among the casualties. The extremist IS group has battled the Taliban, which it views as traitorous for agreeing to a peace deal with the United States.

— Associated Press

Defense secretary issues statement on Kabul attack

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a statement on the attack, expressing condolences to the families of those killed.

“On behalf of the men and women of the Department of Defense, I express my deepest condolences to the loved ones and teammates of all those killed and wounded in Kabul today,” Austin said in the statement.

“Terrorists took their lives at the very moment these troops were trying to save the lives of others. ... But we will not be dissuaded from the task at hand.”

The full statement is below.

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Officials: At least 11 Marines, 1 Navy corpsman killed in attack

KABUL, Afghanistan — At least 12 U.S. service members were killed in the Afghanistan bombings, including 11 Marines and one Navy corpsman, according to two U.S. officials. Officials say a number of US military troops were wounded. They warn, however, that the numbers may grow.

— Associated Press

Pentagon spokesman issues statement confirming deaths of US service members in attack

The Pentagon’s chief spokesman posted a statement to Twitter confirming the deaths of U.S. service members in Thursday’s Kabul airport attack.

"We can confirm that a number of U.S. service members were killed in today's complex attack at Kabul airport,” John Kirby said in the statement. “A number of others are being treated for wounds. We also know that a number of Afghans fell victim to this heinous attack.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the loved ones and teammates of all those killed and injured."

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Taliban condemns Kabul attack

The Taliban has condemned the attack, which spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said “took place in an area where U.S. forces are responsible for security.”

On Twitter, Mujahid said the Taliban “is paying close attention to the security and protection of its people, and evil circles will be strictly stopped,” according to a machine translation of the post.

— Chad Garland

ISIS affiliate responsible for attacks, says SITE Intelligence Group

The attacks outside the Kabul hospital Thursday are believed to have been carried out by a local affiliate of the Islamic State group, according to the director of an American nongovernmental intelligence organization.

“The more we learn about the attacks the more it is apparent that #ISIS Khorasan Province carried out this attack, and may still carry out more,” Rita Katz, director of the organization SITE Intelligence Group that tracks terrorist threats, said in a Twitter post. “Since Taliban took over, the group has repeatedly warned of upcoming attacks in Afghanistan, and Kabul has long been a top target.”

The incident bears some hallmarks of attacks ISIS-K has claimed in recent years, many of which have involved dual bombings on different sides of large gatherings, meant to inflict a much larger number of casualties.

Taliban insurgents have battled the terrorist group, which in 2018 carried out a deadly bombing against a gathering of Taliban and other Afghans celebrating a rare cease-fire being observed by both the militants and the government at the time.

— Chad Garland

Kabul hospital: 60 wounded, 6 dead in airport attack

At least 60 people were wounded in the Kabul airport attack and are being treated at Kabul Surgical Centre, according to a tweet from humanitarian nongovernmental organization Emergency.

“Around 60 patients wounded in airport attack have arrived at our Kabul Surgical Centre so far,” the organization tweeted.

Emergency previously tweeted that 6 patients were “dead on arrival” at the Kabul hospital.

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Kirby: Second explosion outside Kabul airport

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby confirmed another explosion "at or near" the Baron Hotel, as well as U.S. and civilian casualties, in his most recent tweet.

“We can confirm that the explosion at the Abbey Gate was the result of a complex attack that resulted in a number of US & civilian casualties,” Kirby said in the later tweet. “We can also confirm at least one other explosion at or near the Baron Hotel, a short distance from Abbey Gate. We will continue to update.”

It was unclear Thursday whether the casualties included deaths. The military uses the term to describe injuries and fatalities.

At least one more explosion happened shortly after “at or near the Baron Hotel, a short distance from Abbey Gate,” Kirby said. He did not say if any casualties resulted from the second explosion.

Kirby was scheduled to hold a press briefing at 10:30 a.m. but postponed the event as the news of the explosion broke. The bombing is believed to have been a suicide mission, Reuters reported.

Since Aug. 14, the U.S. has evacuated approximately 95,700 Americans and Afghans who helped the U.S. during its nearly two decades in Afghanistan. The U.S. sent thousands of troops to Kabul to assist with the evacuations and provide security at the airport. There were 5,800 U.S. troops at the airport, though 400 were transported out of Kabul on Wednesday.

As the deadline draws near, hopeful evacuees on the ground in Kabul have reported rumors of the U.S. ending evacuations by Saturday, but Kirby on Thursday denied the reports.

“Evacuation operations in Kabul will not be wrapping up in 36 hours,” Kirby tweeted. “We will continue to evacuate as many people as we can until the end of the mission.”

Kirby’s tweet was sent before the reports of the explosions. It was not clear Thursday whether the explosions would affect evacuation efforts.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry says a second explosion has gone off outside Kabul airport, according to The Associated Press. The twin suicide attacks killed at least 13 people and wounded another 15.

U.S. officials said that American personnel were wounded in the blast, without elaborating. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing operations.

The blasts happened outside the airport, where thousands of Afghans have gathered hoping to join a U.S.-led airlift after the Taliban takeover.

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Explosion outside Kabul airport, news reports say US Marines injured

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby confirmed an explosion occurred outside Kabul airport Thursday. There were no details on casualties, Kirby said in a tweet.

At least three U.S. Marines were injured in the blast, Fox News reported, citing unnamed U.S. officials.

About an hour before confirming the blast on Twitter, Kirby had pushed back on rumors that the U.S. would be wrapping up its evacuation efforts ahead of an Aug. 31 deadline.

“Evacuation operations in Kabul will not be wrapping up in 36 hours,” he said. “We will continue to evacuate as many people as we can until the end of the mission.”

The large explosion occurred at the Abbey Gate, followed by reports of gunfire, the State Department said in a security alert. The gate is one of three entrances to the airport where crowds of people had been gathered since last week to vie for evacuation flights.

Images of bloodied Afghan men walking or being carted in wheel barrows away from the scene of the blast began to circulate on Twitter. President Biden has been briefed on the explosion, a White House official told CNN.

Western nations had warned Thursday of a possible attack on Kabul’s airport, where thousands have flocked as they try to flee Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in the waning days of a massive airlift.

Several countries urged people to avoid the airport, where Belgium said there was a threat of a suicide bombing. But with just days left before the evacuation effort ends and American troops withdraw, few appeared to heed the call.

Over the last week, the airport has been the scene of some of the most searing images of the chaotic end of America’s longest war and the Taliban’s takeover, as flight after flight landed to pull out those who fear a return to the militants’ brutal rule.

Already, some countries have ended their evacuations and begun to withdraw their soldiers and diplomats, signaling the beginning of the end of one of history’s largest airlifts. The Taliban have so far honored a pledge not to attack Western forces during the evacuation, but insist the foreign troops must be out by America’s self-imposed deadline of Aug. 31.

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