Afghanistan news: Over 180 killed in Kabul airport attack, officials say, with two Britons among dead

·44-min read

The number of Afghans killed in the Kabul airport bombing has risen to 169, one of the country’s highest death tolls in a terror attack.

With 13 US service people dead, it brings the total number of people killed to 182.

Two British people and the child of another Briton were among the dead.

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement: “I was deeply saddened to learn that two British nationals and the child of another British national were killed by yesterday’s terror attack, with two more injured.

“These were innocent people, and it is a tragedy that as they sought to bring their loved ones to safety in the UK, they were murdered by cowardly terrorists.”

In the hours after Thursday’s suicide bombing, the Ministry of Defence had said no Britons had been killed.

About 12,500 people were airlifted out in one day, according to US officials.

Read More

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Key points

06:21 , Stuti Mishra

Good morning, and welcome to The Independent’s rolling coverage of the Afghanistan crisis. Stay tuned as we bring you the latest updates.

America’s deadliest day in Afghanistan

06:30 , Stuti Mishra

Bombings and firefights near a British base next to Kabul airport have killed 13 US troops and over 60 Afghans – including women and children seeking evacuation from the Taliban regime.

The attacks, which were claimed by Isis, happened as British forces were preparing to leave the Baron Hotel on the approach road to the airport, where desperate Afghans were trying to escape on the final airlifts.

Video footage from the scene showed a watery ditch by the perimeter fence filled with blood-soaked bodies and relatives searching for loved ones.

Read The Independent’s defence editor Kim Sengupta’s account of Kabul airport on the night of blasts:

Carnage and chaos as blasts kill families trying to flee Taliban

Biden: 'We will hunt you down and make you pay’

06:44 , Stuti Mishra

President Joe Biden promised to “hunt down” the terrorists responsible for the two suicide bombings at Kabul airport that left 13 US service members dead and 18 wounded.

The president warned ISIS-K, which claimed responsibility for the attack, that the US would exact revenge for the attack.

“Know this; We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay,” said the Commander-in-Chief.

He said that he had asked military commanders to draw up plans to strike back at the terrorist group.

Mr Biden also asked for a moment of silence to honour the service members, bowing his head, and ordered US flags to half-staff across the country.

He also assured the evacuation process will continue adding that US military commanders in Afghanistan had told him it is important to complete the mission. “And we will,” he said. “We will not be deterred by terrorists.”

Follow all updates from Mr Biden’s speech here:

Biden vows revenge on Isis after 85 killed in Kabul attacks - follow live

California students evacuated from Afghanistan

06:59 , Stuti Mishra

Three San Diego-area families, including nine school children, have made it safely out of Afghanistan after being stranded in the country for days.

The fate of a remaining group of at least five families from the area, however, is in limbo, as the Taliban solidifies its grip over the country and bombings rocked the Kabul airport on Thursday, killing 13 US service personnel and at least 90 Afghans.

The Cajon Valley Union School District. located outside of San Diego, announced earlier this week that nearly two dozen of its students who were in Afghanistan visiting family over the summer were still stuck in the country, as the 31 August deadline for the full US troop withdrawal from the country looms.

Three families have made it out so far, according to the district.

Read more details:

California students airlifted but more stranded in Afghanistan after summer trip

US braces for more ISIS attacks

07:04 , Stuti Mishra

The head of the US Central Command, General Frank McKenzie, said “commanders were on alert for more attacks by Islamic State,” including possibly rockets or vehicle-borne bombs targeting the airport, Reuters reported.

“We’re doing everything we can to be prepared,” he said.

He added that some intelligence was being shared with the Taliban and that he believed “some attacks have been thwarted by them.”

Details of Afghan workers left scattered at British embassy, says report

07:10 , Stuti Mishra

Documents with the contact details of Afghan workers were left scattered at the British embassy compound in Kabul seized by the Taliban.

Paperwork identifying seven Afghans was found by reporters as Taliban fighters patrolled the embassy, The Times reported.

The newspaper said it handed over the details of three Afghan staff and their eight family members to the Foreign Office.

“Crucially we have now been able to get these three families to safety”, a Foreign Office spokesperson told Reuters.

Afghan workers’ details ‘left at British embassy as Taliban took over’

How dangerous is Afghanistan's Islamic State?

07:20 , Sam Hancock

Since coalescing in eastern Afghanistan six years ago, an Islamic State affiliate there has grown into one of the most dangerous terror threats globally.

Despite years of military targeting by the U.S.-led coalition, the group known as Islamic State Khorasan has survived to pursue new attacks as the United States and other NATO partners withdraw from Afghanistan, and as the Taliban return to power.

President Joe Biden cited the threat of Islamic State attacks in sticking with a Tuesday deadline for pulling US forces out of Afghanistan. And ahead of deadly suicide bombings at the Kabul airport Thursday, there were urgent Western warnings of a potential attack by the group, under cover of the throngs that have gathered at the Kabul airport seeking evacuation.

Explainer: How dangerous is Afghanistan's Islamic State?

Animal charity worker Pen Farthing caught up in Kabul attack

07:30 , Sam Hancock

Ministers will have blood on their hands if Pen Farthing’s staff are barred from escaping the Taliban in Afghanistan and his animals die in the searing heat inside crates, supporters of the charity director have claimed.

The founder of the Nowzad animal-rescue group has been at Kabul airport with his colleagues and 173 dogs and cats desperately trying to get on a flight out of the country.

The team were caught in the chaotic aftermath of a suicide attack at the airport while they waited.

“We’re fine but everything is chaos here,” he said. “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.

UK and US troops, who control the gates into the airport, cannot let Mr Farthing’s team through for a flight because they are not on a UK government priority list.

Animals could die of heat at Kabul airport as ministers accused of blocking escape

UK evacuation in its ‘final hours,’ says defence secretary

07:42 , Sam Hancock

Defence secretary Ben Wallace has said the UK evacuation mission in Kabul is into its final “hours” after closing the main processing centre in Baron Hotel near the airport.

“We at 4.30 this morning, UK-time, closed the Baron’s hotel, shut the processing centre and the gates were closed at Abbey Gate,” he told Sky News.

“We will process the people that we’ve brought with us, the 1,000 people approximately in the airfield now and we will seek a way to continue to find a few people in the crowds where we can, but overall the main processing is now closed and we have a matter of hours.”

Follow Joe Middleton’s breaking report:

UK evacuation mission in its ‘final hours’, confirms defence secretary

Wallace: ‘Matter of hours’ for UK to evacuate those still in Afghanistan

07:46 , Sam Hancock

Following my last post, here’s defence secretary Ben Wallace speaking to Sky’s Kay Burley this morning.

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Kabul residents explain fear after hearing deadly blasts

07:52 , Sam Hancock

Kabul locals have said they feel “completely broken” after hearing explosions kill dozens of Afghans in the capital on Thursday.

Fatima, a student from Kabul University, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, told reporters she is “99 per cent” sure her friend who was at the airport died in the blast.

The 22-year-old had tried to convince her friend to leave the area, after US authorities issued a warning on Wednesday that there was a high risk of a terror attack there.

She shared a voice note with the PA news agency in which the friend said she would not leave. “She said I suffered a lot ... I will not leave even if I die,” Fatima said. “The explosion was exactly at her location... [I] couldn’t reach her.”

Fatima also said locals in Kabul are “panicked”, adding: “There is two (groups) of people, those near and around the airport and those sitting in their home and [accepting] everything.”

Sayed, whose name has also been changed, said he could hear the explosions from his home, which is not far from the airport. “I don’t want to go out [of my home] anymore,” the 29-year-old student told PA. “I just [wanted] to bring something for dinner after the first two blasts.”

He added: “I’m completely broken. Bored of life. Not just today but since Taliban take over.”

As well as the blasts, Sayed said he knows people who have been “beaten” by the Taliban while attempting to access Kabul airport.

“The barber [on this street] has been beaten by the Taliban when he was coming to his shop from his home - [they] thought he was going to the airport,” Sayed said.

Additional reporting by PA

Ben Wallace labels Isis-K a ‘truly evil spectre’

07:58 , Sam Hancock

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Johnson and Biden say terror attack will not stop evacuation efforts

08:06 , Sam Hancock

Boris Johnson and Joe Biden have vowed to continue their military evacuations until the 31 August deadline after a terrorist attack at Kabul airport killed dozens.

The PM said the “overwhelming majority” of eligible people have already been helped to flee the Taliban by the RAF and British forces would “keep going up until the last moment” to evacuate others despite the “barbaric” incident.

Meanwhile, addressing the American people, the US president said their own airlift operation would “not be deterred by terrorists”.

He said the attack, consisting of two bombings and gunfire, was believed to have been carried out by an affiliate of the so-called Islamic State in Afghanistan, Isis-K, adding: “We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.”

Last night, the the Ministry of Defence confirmed the UK has so far evacuated 13,146 British nationals, Afghans, embassy staff and nationals from partner nations since 13 August.

After chairing an emergency Cobra meeting on Thursday, Mr Johnson said: “I can confirm that there’s been a barbaric terrorist attack, what looks like a series of attacks, in Kabul, on the airport, on the crowds at the airport, in which members of the US military, very sadly have lost their lives and many Afghan casualties as well.”

He later told reporters in Downing Street the evacuation programme would work “flat out” according to “the timetable we’ve got”.

Biden and Johnson are pictured at the G7 summit earlier this year (PA)
Biden and Johnson are pictured at the G7 summit earlier this year (PA)

UK ‘grateful and pleased’ no British troops died in blast

08:12 , Sam Hancock

It is thought the Isis attack on Kabul airport was carried out by one suicide bomber “and another smaller explosion”.

“We think it was one suicide bomber and another smaller explosion detonated in the middle of the crowd near the canal near the Baron’s hotel,” defence secretary Ben Wallace told BBC Breakfast earlier.

Speaking about how the bombings are believed to have been carried out Mr Wallace said: “It could’ve been our soldiers [killed], I’m grateful and I’m pleased that it wasn’t but I’m also very sad that it was somebody’s.”

Meanwhile, US president Joe Biden said the US “would not forgive and would not forget” the attacks. He added troops would find those responsibly and make them pay.

Afghan woman says India deported her back to Istanbul despite diplomatic passport

08:30 , Sam Hancock

An Afghan parliamentarian was allegedly deported to Istanbul from India despite holding a diplomatic passport that allows traveling to other countries without visas.

Rangina Kargar, a lawmaker from Afghanistan’s Faryab province, said she landed in India from Turkey on 20 August, five days after the Taliban‘s takeover of the country, but was returned from New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi international airport, writes Alisha Rahaman Sarkar.

“They deported me, I was treated as a criminal. I was not given my passport in Dubai. It was given back to me only in Istanbul,” the 36-year-old lawmaker told the Indian Express newspaper. “It was not good what they did to me. They told me at the airport, ‘sorry, we cannot do anything for you’. The situation has changed in Kabul and I hope the Indian government helps Afghan women.”

Afghan woman MP says India deported her back to Istanbul despite diplomatic passport

Up to 1,100 Afghans to be left behind despite Arap scheme - minister

08:44 , Sam Hancock

More than 1,000 Afghans who could be eligible for evacuation will be left behind by the UK as troops prepare to leave Kabul, the defence secretary has said.

Speaking to LBC radio, he said: “We think down to approximately 100-150 British nationals left in the estimated pot, some of those are willingly staying.”

Mr Wallace then gave figures for those who could be helped under the Afghan relocations and assistance policy (Arap) scheme.

“It was actually double the number of people we thought we’d get out and we’re now way above the original, even the estimates, of the total Arap, which is nearly hitting 10,000, it will go over 10,000 we think today, from April,” he said.

“We think there will be circa between 800 and 1,100 Arap that didn’t make it.”

Earlier he told Sky News it was “regrettable” that not everyone could be saved.

Watch live as planes fly out of Kabul airport

09:10 , Sam Hancock

Planes continue to leave Kabul airport the day after a terror attack killed 85 people.

The attacks came as thousands waited to be evacuated from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan on military flights. The US is trying to airlift American citizens and Afghan allies ahead of 31 August to complete a withdrawal after 20 years in the country.

Isis-K, an affiliate of the so-called Islamic State in Afghanistan, has taken credit for the attack.

Watch the footage live here:

Watch: Watch live as planes fly out of Kabul airport after yesterday's explosions

95 dead after Kabul blasts - Afghan official

09:19 , Sam Hancock

At least 95 Afghans were killed in Thursday’s suicide bombings outside Kabul’s international airport, an official has told the AP news agency.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media. The official said the actual death toll is even higher because others were involved in evacuating bodies.

Afghan and US officials earlier said the bombings killed at least 60 Afghans and 13 US troops, in what is being called the deadliest day for US forces in Afghanistan since August 2011.

In UK’s ‘own interests’ to build relationship with Taliban, says commander

09:29 , Sam Hancock

Former military commander General Sir Richard Barrons said earlier that the UK must form a relationship with the Taliban in order to “get on top of” Isis-K, an affiliate of the so-called Islamic State in Afghanistan.

“It is a very strange state of affairs and I think we are now going to have to bite our lip more and be very pragmatic because we have now got two huge problems to overcome,” he told BBC R4’s Today programme.

“The first is, a lot of people to whom we have made a commitment are now going to be left behind.

“And secondly, with the clear sign of this group Isis-K having more than a foothold in Afghanistan, the only way we are going to be able to get on top of that is by forming a relationship with the Taliban, since we no longer have an embassy, troops on the ground, or a relationship with the Afghan security forces.”

Sir Richard added: “We are just going to have to accept we can and try and build a relationship with the Taliban in our own interests.”

General Barrons is a retired British Army officer (Wikimedia Commons)
General Barrons is a retired British Army officer (Wikimedia Commons)

Kabul’s fall to Taliban an ‘unwise’ political decision

09:36 , Sam Hancock

Tory MP Tom Tugendhat, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, has blamed the US government for Afghanistan’s fall to the Taliban.

Speaking to Sky News, the former soldier said the crisis was not a “military defeat” on Afghanistan’s part - instead, he told the broadcaster, “this was a political decision, unwisely made in the White House, which we all pay for”.

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US flight carrying 400 evacuees arrives in Spain

09:45 , Sam Hancock

A US military aircraft has flown around 400 people evacuated from Afghanistan to the navy base of Rota, in southern Spain, making them the first group of up to 4,000 people expected there.

The flight landed just before 10am (local time) on Friday, a statement from the US embassy in Spain said.The Rota navy base and the nearby air force base of Moron, which both host a significant US military presence, have been overhauled during the past few days to welcome the evacuees.

Photos on the bases’ official social media sites showed a big warehouse converted into a canteen and a basketball court filled with dozens of makeshift beds. Soldiers were also photographed putting up tents.

A bilateral agreement signed last week between the governments of Spain and the US is allowing the evacuation to the two bases of up to 4,000 people while they are being cleared for continuing their trips to the US. The Spanish government has put a 15-day cap for the Afghans’ stay in the bases, which are owned by Spain.

Afghan citizens board a military plane at Abu Dhabi airport on Thursday (AP)
Afghan citizens board a military plane at Abu Dhabi airport on Thursday (AP)

Afghan girl born on US military plane named after plane’s call sign

09:55 , Sam Hancock

A child born on board a US military plane during the evacuation from Afghanistan was named “Reach,” after the plane’s call sign, US officials said on Friday.

The child’s mother, an Afghan citizen, reportedly went into labour on 21 August while being flowing out of Qatar to a US military base in Germany. As the plane landed at the Ramstein air force base, military medics helped the women deliver her baby in the cargo hold of the aircraft, reports Alisha Rahaman Sarkar.

Reach was born in the cargo of a C-17 Globemaster plane “Reach 828” and was one of the three babies born during evacuations. The other two babies were delivered at the Landstuhl regional medical centre in Germany.

Afghan girl born on US military plane named Reach, after plane’s call sign

‘Few days’ of medical supplies left in Afghanistan, warns WHO

10:07 , Sam Hancock

There only a “few days” of medical supplies left in Afghanistan, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned, adding that it hoped to establish an air bridge into the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif with the help of Pakistani authorities within that timeframe.

Trauma kits and emergency supplies for hospitals, as well as medicines for treating chronic malnutrition among children are among priority items, said Rick Brennan, WHO’s regional emergency director, describing the needs as “enormous and growing”.

He also said he hoped aid flights coming into Afghanistan will be “airborne within the new 48 to 72 hours”.

The WHO is now in talks to use the Mazar’s airport, in northern Afghanistan, for the aid flights instead of Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International airfield.

US braces for more attacks after Isis bombing

10:10 , Sam Hancock

US commanders are on high alert for more deadly attacks, including those involving rockets and vehicle-borne explosives, following Thursday’s double-strike blast and gunfire outside Kabul airport.

Confirming that more attacks from Isis are anticipated, General Frank McKenzie, head of US Central Command, said: “We’re doing everything we can to be prepared.”

General McKenzie said they have some intelligence inputs from the Taliban and he believed “some attacks have been thwarted by them.”

US braces for more attacks after Isis bomber kills 95 people outside Kabul airport

Turkey in talks with Taliban to run Kabul airport

10:30 , Sam Hancock

The Taliban has asked Turkey to operate Kabul airport, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday. Though no decision has been made yet, he added.“

The Taliban have made a request for us to operate Kabul airport. We have not yet made a decision on this matter,” he told a news conference at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport before heading to Bosnia. “We will make a decision after the administration (in Afghanistan) is clear.”

Mr Erdogan said a meeting with the Taliban took place at the Turkish embassy in Kabul for more than three hours but, when asked, he would not disclose when the meeting happened. The president added that the evacuation of Turkish troops from Kabul, which began on Wednesday, was ongoing. He also condemned Thursday’s attacks.

The prospect of Turkey operating Hamid Karzai International Airport, in the capital, after the withdrawal of Nato troops was first raised in June.

Erdogan refused to say when the three-hour meeting took place (Turkish Presidency)
Erdogan refused to say when the three-hour meeting took place (Turkish Presidency)

Watch: Crowds run from Taliban an hour before Kabul blasts

10:36 , Sam Hancock

About an hour before two blasts in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Thursday, crowds were seen fleeing from gunfire apparently fired into the air by Taliban forces near Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport.

In the video, people can be seen running in fear along a street while there are sporadic sounds of gunfire in the distance.

The Taliban have been regularly using this tactic of firing into the air to try to control the crowds around the airport – sending Afghan men, women and children running for their lives, writes Cal Byrne.

Afghanistan: Crowds run from Taliban fire an hour before Kabul airport blasts

Security concerns intensify around Kabul

11:02 , Sam Hancock

UK officials are growing increasingly concerned that Kabul will be hit by further terror attacks following the blasts yesterday that killed almost 100 people.

Defence secretary Ben Wallace said the threat of attacks by Isis-K, the affiliate of the so-called Islamic State in Afghanistan, around Kabul airport will increase as foreign forces depart.

“I am concerned. Isis have an intent, they have the capability, should they wish to do so, to deploy more of these types of attacks,” he told BBC R4’s Today programme this morning.

“I’m absolutely concerned that, until we’ve gone, there’s an absolute threat to our forces, and even after we’ve gone there’s a threat to the Afghan people from Isis.”

Isis claimed responsibility for the attacks on Thursday shortly after they took place.

Defence secretary condemns discovery of papers identifying British embassy workers

11:28 , Sam Hancock

Documents identifying Afghan workers have been found on the ground at the British diplomatic mission in Kabul, sparking criticism from defence secretary Ben Wallace.

Mr Wallace said Boris Johnson “will be asking some questions” about how the papers were left unsecure, adding: “Clearly it’s not good enough.”

The Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee is set to launch an inquiry after a journalist from The Times found the documents containing contact details of seven Afghans while on a tour through the city’s abandoned diplomatic quarter accompanied by a Taliban patrol on Tuesday.

Amid fears of Taliban reprisals for any locals who helped Western interests in the country, the documents included the name and address of a senior embassy staff member, other employees and their contact details, and the CVs and addresses of applicants for jobs as interpreters.

Mr Wallace told LBC radio: “We’ll find out and get to the bottom of it. The evidence looks pretty clear. Clearly it’s not good enough, simple as that.

“I think the prime minister will be asking some questions, I think we need to understand, quite rightly, how that happened.”

The blunder is thought to have been made as staff hastily left the embassy when the Taliban reclaimed Kabul and ignored evacuation protocols of shredding and destroying all data that could compromise local workers.

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Sweden ends Afghanistan evacuation mission

11:44 , Sam Hancock

Some news from Sweden. The Scandinavian nation has ended its evacuation mission in Kabul, Swedish foreign minister Ann Linde said on Friday.

“All in all, some 1,100 people have been evacuated by the foreign ministry,” she told a news conference. “All locally employed embassy staff and their families have been evacuated.”

In a tweet, Ms Linde also said “renewed information” about a high terrorist threat around Kabul Airport meant it was not safe for Swedes “to go to Kabul Airport”.

“We urge those who are already [in the area] to leave,” she added.

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Who are Isis-K?

11:57 , Sam Hancock

Isis-K has claimed responsibility for the terrorist bombing outside Kabul’s Hamid Karzai airport, which left at least 95 people dead, including children, and added to the chaos and despair in Afghanistan on the eve of the final withdrawal of international forces from the country after nearly 20 years of failed efforts at stabilisation and state-building.

“The main thing that signals is that, even now that the Taliban spokesman has been saying the war is over, this really shows that terrorism is still very much prevalent in Afghanistan and will continue to be so under this Taliban regime,” Viraj Solanki, a south Asia researcher at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, told The Independent.

So, who are Isis-K? Our international correspondent Borzou Daragahi takes a closer look.

Who are Isis-K?

DUP seeks ‘clarification’ on whereabouts of NI residents in Afghanistan

12:10 , Sam Hancock

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has said he is seeking urgent clarification from the UK government about people from Northern Ireland who remain in Afghanistan.

The UK has entered the final stages of its Kabul evacuation and no more people will be called to the airport to leave, the Ministry of Defence said earlier.

But Sir Jeffrey expressed concerns over British citizens who have not yet been evacuated. He also said he would be raising cases of Irish citizens from Northern Ireland who are believed still to be in the country with taoiseach Micheal Martin.

He told the BBC:

“Whilst I understand absolutely the need to protect our armed forces and the civilian staff who are working at Kabul Airport, I am concerned that perhaps there remain British citizens who haven’t yet been transported, evacuated out of Kabul.

“I am seeking clarity on that from the Foreign Office and the Home Office today. That includes some Northern Ireland citizens whose cases I have been dealing with. I hope that by now they are in the airport compound and will be transported home but those are matters that we need to clarify.

“Obviously our thoughts are with the people working at Kabul Airport last night. It was absolutely devastating and clearly there has been a reaction to that; the UK Government is anxious to safeguard its people.

“Equally there will be Afghans who supported our armed forces during the war in Afghanistan who have not made it into the airport. Some cases I am aware of, with people in hiding who have been waiting on word to go to the airport and may now be left behind.

“I just can’t begin to contemplate what that will mean to those people now that they face the very high risk of persecution and indeed execution by the Taliban.”

Sir Jeffrey made the appeal alongside Ireland’s taoiseach (Getty)
Sir Jeffrey made the appeal alongside Ireland’s taoiseach (Getty)

Requests for UK help will not stop, warns former ambassador

12:20 , Sam Hancock

Britain’s former ambassador to Afghanistan issued a blunt reminder on Friday, that the problems Afghanistan faces will not be over when the evacuation deadline has come and gone.

“We need to remember that after 31 August the problems are still there,” he told BBC Breakfast, listing the “impending humanitarian tsunami” and the growing threat of terrorism as examples.

“We will be inundated with requests to help those left behind,” he added.

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Starmer urges govt to ‘take responsibility’ for role in Afghan crisis

12:46 , Sam Hancock

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the imminent end of Britain’s evacuation from Kabul marks a “sad and dark day” and that the government has “serious questions to answer”.

In a statement, he said: “After the despicable acts of violence we witnessed on Thursday, the end of the evacuation from Kabul Airport marks a sad and dark day for many people in Afghanistan.”

He said “with the withdrawal we face the heart-breaking reality that people have been left behind, including many to whom we owe so much”.

“The British government must take its fair share of the responsibility and has serious questions to answer about how, despite having 18 months to prepare, their failure to plan and inability to influence others has contributed to this tragic political failure,” he added.

“We must urgently help the thousands who we have left behind, some of whom are eligible for relocation under the Arap scheme. There are MPs all over the UK who have constituents still pleading for their help.

“The government must work quickly to deliver a strategy to get those people out and work with the UN and partners to quickly deliver essential aid directly to those in need.”

The Labour leader has been critical of Johnson’s handling of the Afghanistan evacuation (PA)
The Labour leader has been critical of Johnson’s handling of the Afghanistan evacuation (PA)

Kabul blast death toll rises to more than 100

13:04 , Sam Hancock

A day after two suicide bombings hit the Kabul airport, the death toll in Afghanistan has risen to more than 100 people.

Thursday’s bombings near Kabul’s international airport killed at least 95 Afghans and 13 US troops, Afghan and US officials have said, in what is being called the deadliest day for US armed forces in Afghanistan since August 2011.

We’ll keep bringing you the latest figures as they come out.

Wounded Afghans lie on a bed at a hospital after the deadly explosions (AP)
Wounded Afghans lie on a bed at a hospital after the deadly explosions (AP)

What happens to Afghan withdrawal deadline in light of Kabul attacks

13:17 , Sam Hancock

As America’s 31 August evacuation deadline approaches, countries like Australia, Canada and New Zealand have already ended their evacuation efforts, while the UK’s is in the final stages.

US president Joe Biden has vowed to continue his mission to rescue Americans and Afghan allies as evacuations resumed on Friday with new urgency following the bomb blasts. Despite intense pressure mounting on him to extend Tuesday’s deadline, Mr Biden has cited threat of terrorist attacks as a reason to keep to his plan.

The US military will continue evacuating people from the Kabul airport until 31 August if needed, but will prioritise the removal of US troops and military equipment on the last couple of days, the Pentagon has said.

Shweta Sharma reports:

What happens to Afghan withdrawal deadline in light of Kabul attacks

Final Italian evacuation flight to leave Kabul today

13:35 , Sam Hancock

Italy’s foreign minister has said that the last Italian military flight evacuating people from Afghanistan will depart from Kabul later today.

Luigi Di Maio said that among those aboard the departing C-130 Air Force aircraft will be the Italian consul, who had stayed on in Kabul at the airport to oversee the evacuation of Italians and foreigners, as well as the top Nato diplomat, Stefano Pontecorvo, who is Italian.

Also aboard will be Italian Carabinieri paramilitary police and Italian soldiers who helped maintain security for evacuations carried out by Italy.

“All the Italians who wanted to return to Italy have returned,” Mr Di Maio told PA, adding some 4,900 Afghan citizens were also evacuated to Italy.

In a tweet last night, the minister confirmed no Italians were involved in the attacks by Kabul airport.

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Only a ‘few days’ worth of supplies left in Afghanistan, WHO warns

13:46 , Sam Hancock

Following my post from earlier, here’s Joe Middleton on the medical supply shortage currently affecting Afghanistan.

Only a ‘few days’ worth of medical supplies left in Afghanistan, WHO warns

Sign up to our free event ‘Afghanistan: A nation abandoned?’

13:57 , Sam Hancock

The situation in Afghanistan has been deteriorating at a pace few would have imagined in the aftermath of President Joe Biden’s decision to pull out US forces at speed.

The Independent has provided decades of award winning journalistic coverage from the ground in Afghanistan. And now we are holding a webinar titled Afghanistan: An abandoned nation? to discuss the future Afghanistan faces and what lessons can be learned from the past.

The panel will be hosted by our foreign editor David Harding and the panel will consist of foreign correspondent and commentator Patrick Cockburn, Camelia Entekhbifard, editor of Independent Persian, and lieutenant general Sir Simon Mayell, a commander who was the Middle East advisor in the Ministry of Defence and Kim Sengupta, the defence and diplomatic editor.

Sign up for the free event, which will be held on Zoom from 6.30-7.30pm on 1 September, here:

Afghanistan: A nation abandoned? Sign up to our exclusive virtual event

UNHCR thinks half a million more may flee Afghanistan

14:06 , Sam Hancock

As many as half a million people or more are expected to flee from Afghanistan in a “worse-case scenario” over the coming months, the UN’s refugee agency has said.

UNHCR says the situation in Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover last week “remains uncertain and may evolve rapidly,” with up to 515,000 new refugees fleeing.

This will add significantly to the 2.2 million Afghans who already are registered as refugees abroad — nearly all of them in Pakistan and Iran, it added.

Najeeba Wazedafost, CEO of the Asia Pacific Refugee Network, in an online UNHCR news conference on Friday, warned of “coming darkness” in Afghanistan amid a “tragically intertwined series of crises.”

UNHCR cited estimates that 558,000 people have been internally displaced within Afghanistan due to armed conflict this year alone - four in five of them women and children.

The agency is seeking nearly $300m (£218.6m) for its response plan for inter-agency requirements.

Medical workers in Kabul fearful of further attacks

14:18 , Clea Skopeliti

Medical workers at Kabul’s emergency hospital who worked through the night treating the victims of the blasts are fearful about what will follow.

At least 85 people were killed in the attack, claimed by Islamic State.

“Everybody is concerned at this moment in Kabul, nobody knows what to expect in the coming hours,” Rossella Miccio, president of the Italian aid group that runs the hospital, told Reuters.

She said staff in its three operating theatres had worked into the early hours of the morning to handle more than 60 patients, of whom 16 died of their injuries as they arrived.

“It was very tiring, exhausting. They finished with the last patient around 4 am this morning, so the three theatres have been working all night long basically,” she said.

The mood in Kabul was tense, with some expecting more attacks. “I think people are scared that there is a sort of suspended feeling, atmosphere, people are so scared of going around,” said Ms Miccio.

Spain will continue trying to evacuate Afghans in coming months and years, prime minister says

14:29 , Clea Skopeliti

Spain will continue trying to evacuate Afghans who worked with Western countries in the coming months and years, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has said.

The statement came hours after the final two Spanish rescue planes left Kabul for Dubai.

“We are going to work calmly and discreetly. We are already thinking about how to set up an operation to bring back those Afghan allies and their families who we could not evacuate,” he told a news conference, though he did not say how many allies remained in Afghanistan.

He said his government had not ruled out any kind of effort to bring back as many such Afghans as possible.

Spain evacuated 2,206 people on 17 flights – mainly Afghans who had worked with Western countries.

Calling on European nations to present a united front to accommodate the refugees, Sanchez said the West’s hurried exit from Afghanistan would have lasting consequences.

France had contact with Taliban to facilitate evacuations

14:50 , Clea Skopeliti

The French foreign ministry has had operational contacts with Taliban representatives in recent days in Kabul and in Doha in order to facilitate its ongoing evacuations from Kabul, a foreign ministry source has said.

France has evacuated at least 2,000 Afghans and 100 French nationals.

Lib Dems call for inquiry into Afghanistan withdrawal

15:16 , Sam Hancock

The Liberal Democrats are calling for an immediate inquiry into the withdrawal and evacuation from Afghanistan.

Sir Ed Davey, the party’s leader, said that “serious questions” need to be asked to determine who in government “is to blame for what has turned into an unmitigated disaster”.

Sir Ed said:

“As the last UK flight leaves Kabul, it’s alarmingly clear that our withdrawal from Afghanistan will go down in history as one of the worst UK foreign policy disasters.

“With thousands of Afghans who supported us now trapped under the brutal Taliban regime, serious questions need to be answered about why things turned out the way they did and what could’ve been done differently.

“Why did we wait so long to start evacuating interpreters?

“Why did the Foreign Secretary go on holiday as the Taliban advance began?

“And how did UK intelligence get the situation so badly wrong?

“We need a short inquiry now to answer these questions and determine the facts.”

Sir Ed previously raised concerns over the ‘millions of women and girls’ heading towards ‘medieval brutality’ under Taliban rule (Getty)
Sir Ed previously raised concerns over the ‘millions of women and girls’ heading towards ‘medieval brutality’ under Taliban rule (Getty)

Watch: Ex-Marine losing hope for interpreter stuck in Afghanistan

15:25 , Sam Hancock

A former US marine has said he is losing hope that an interpreter who saved his life and worked with the American military for 17 years will make it out of Afghanistan.

The interpreter is stuck with his family in Kabul, and was at the Hamid Karzai International Airport when it was struck by an explosion on Thursday.

Peter Cuoco is frustrated that the interpreter, Carl, and his family have been turned away at the airport and says his hope is “dwindling”, writes Cal Byrne.

Ex-Marine losing hope for interpreter stuck in Afghanistan who saved his life

UN brands Kabul terror attack ‘especially abhorrent’

15:27 , Sam Hancock

The UN Security Council has condemned the suicide bombings that took place outside Kabul’s airport as “especially abhorrent” for targeting civilians trying to flee the country.

The 15-member council agreed on the statement after a reference to the Taliban - stressing that the Islamist group should not support “terrorists operating on the territory of any country” - was removed at the request of China, diplomats said.

The Kabul airport attack was claimed by Islamic State militants. The Islamic State’s Afghan affiliate, Isis-K, has emerged as enemies of both the West and of the Taliban.

“Deliberately targeting civilians and personnel assisting in the evacuation of civilians is especially abhorrent and must be condemned,” said the council, underlining the need to hold the perpetrators, organisers, financiers and sponsors accountable.

The council also “reiterated the importance of combating terrorism in Afghanistan to ensure the territory of Afghanistan should not be used to threaten or attack any country, and that no Afghan group or individual should support terrorists operating on the territory of any country”.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres is convening a meeting on Monday on Afghanistan with the UN envoys for Britain, France, the United States, China and Russia - the council’s permanent, veto-wielding members - diplomats said.

Watch live as Pentagon holds briefing over Kabul attack

15:56 , Sam Hancock

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby is leading a live briefing alongside major general Hank Taylor following yesterday’s suicide bombings outside Kabul airport.

It follows President Joe Biden’s promise to “hunt down” the Isis terrorists responsible for the attack which claimed dozens of lives, including 13 US troops.

Watch it live here:

Watch: Watch live as Pentagon hold a briefing after Kabul attack

Opinion: ‘Taliban will escape pariah status by posing as enemy of Isis'

16:02 , Sam Hancock

Our foreign correspondent and commentator Patrick Cockburn shares his views on the troubled relationship between the Taliban and Isis. He writes:

The slaughter of at least 79 Afghan civilians and 13 American servicemen at Kabul airport has propelled the Afghan offshoot of Isis to the top of the news agenda, as it was intended to do. The movement showed with one ferocious assault, at a time and place guaranteeing maximum publicity, that it intends to be a player in Afghanistan under the new Taliban rulers.

President Joe Biden, echoing President George W Bush after 9/11, said: “We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.”

But the self-destructive US response to 9/11 should serve as a warning about the perils of ill-directed over-reaction. Reducing complex developments in Afghanistan to another episode in “the war on terror” is misleading, counter-productive and one of the root causes of the present mess.

Read the rest here:

Patrick Cockburn: The Taliban will escape pariah status by posing as an enemy of Isis

Pentagon: One suicide bomber carried out airport attack

16:23 , Lamiat Sabin

The Pentagon said today that a deadly attack at the gate to Kabul airport in Afghanistan was carried out by one suicide bomber, not two.

“I can confirm for you that we do not believe that there was a second explosion at or near the Baron Hotel, that it was one suicide bomber,” Army Major General William Taylor told reporters at a Pentagon press conference.

The Kabul airport attack on Thursday, which killed 13 US troops and at least 79 Afghans, was claimed by ISIS.

ISIS’s Afghan affiliate, ISIS-Khorosan, also known as ISIS-K, has emerged as enemies of the West and the Taliban.

Gen Taylor said US troops wounded in the attack were being treated in Germany.

Two UK nationals and child of British citizen die in attack

17:00 , Lamiat Sabin

Two British citizens and the child of another Briton were killed in the Kabul terror attack, foreign secretary Dominic Raab has said.

NATO allies struggling to ensure airport remains open for aid

17:20 , Lamiat Sabin

NATO allies are struggling to ensure that Kabul airport remains open for humanitarian aid flights next week.

The aid is scheduled to arrive when evacuation flights by Western countries come to an end on Tuesday.

The airport was hit by a deadly suicide bombing attack outside its gates yesterday and scores of people were killed.

Aid groups say there is an urgent need to maintain humanitarian deliveries to a country suffering its second drought in four years and where 18 million people, nearly half the population, depend on life-saving assistance.

The World Food Programme said this week that millions of people in Afghanistan were “marching towards starvation” as a result of the Taliban’s takeover, the Covid pandemic, and existing hardships.

The World Health Organization warned today that medical supplies in Afghanistan would run out in days, with little chance of re-stocking them.

“Right now because of security concerns and several other operational considerations, Kabul airport is not going to be an option for the next week at least,” said WHO regional emergency director Rick Brennan.

Mr Brennan said the organisation hopes to operate flights in the next few days into Afghanistan’s northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif with the support of Pakistani authorities.

Reporting by Reuters

Taliban says women in healthcare should return to work

17:40 , Lamiat Sabin

Women working in healthcare are being called on by the Taliban to return to their jobs.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted today an announcement by the Ministry of Public Health of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

He wrote: “The Ministry of Public Health of the Islamic Emirate informs all female employees to attend their duties regularly in [Kabul] and provinces.

“There is no impediment from the Islamic Emirate to carrying out their work.”

Rukhshana Media, a media organisation led by women in Afghanistan, pointed out that the Taliban’s tweet comes after they had said at a news conference earlier this week that working women should stay at home.

Women being discouraged from going to work, and even being turned away from offices, had prompted fears that the Taliban’s takeover would see a repeat of their previous government which banned women from being employed.

‘Wonderful’ image of evacuated girl skipping goes viral

18:00 , Lamiat Sabin

A photo of an Afghan girl skipping across the tarmac at an airport in Belgium after being evacuated from Kabul has gone viral.

Former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt praised the picture as “wonderful” when sharing it on Twitter.

“This is what happens when you protect refugees,” he wrote on Thursday. “Welcome to Belgium, little girl!”

Conrad Duncan reports

Photo of Afghan girl skipping on airport tarmac after arriving in Belgium goes viral

US Navy medic killed in attack identified by sister

18:25 , Lamiat Sabin

One of the 13 US troops who died in a suicide bombing attack yesterday has been named.

Max Soviak, who was in his early 20s, was the US navy medic who was killed outside the airport in Kabul.

His sister Marilyn has posted on Instagram to pay tribute, saying her “beautiful, intelligent, beat-to-the-sound of his own drum, annoying, charming baby brother was killed yesterday helping to save lives”.

“He was a f****** medic. there to help people. and now he is gone and my family will never be the same,” she said.

She added: “My heart is in pieces and I don’t think they’ll ever fit back right again.”

The other 12 service members, who include 10 Marines and 2 Army soldiers, have yet to be identified.

Graig Graziosi reports

Tributes paid to US Navy sailor killed in Kabul attack

Airport attack death toll jumps to 170 – BBC report

18:32 , Lamiat Sabin

An anonymous Afghan public health official has told the BBC that the death toll from yesterday’s attack in Kabul has risen from 90 to more than 170.

The increased death toll has yet to be confirmed by the BBC.

Those killed in the bombing at Kabul’s airport were mostly Afghan civilians.

Thirteen US service members, two British nationals and the child of a third British national are also confirmed to have died.

ISIS-K, a local branch of the Islamic State group, has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Next few days of evacuations feared to be most dangerous

18:40 , Lamiat Sabin

US military officials have told President Joe Biden that the next few days of evacuations will be the most dangerous to date.

There will be last-minute efforts to evacuate people who want to leave Afghanistan before Tuesday’s deadline.

The security concerns have heightened after 13 US troops were killed by a suicide bombing attack outside Kabul airport yesterday.

About 100 people died, including scores of Afghan civilians and three British nationals, according to reports.

Isis has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Taliban promises that Afghanistan’s borders will be open

19:08 , Lamiat Sabin

Afghans with valid documents will be able to travel freely in the future at any time, a senior Taliban official said today.

In a televised address, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, deputy head of the Taliban’s political commission said: “The Afghan borders will be open and people will be able to travel at any time into and out of Afghanistan.”

The message came as thousands have struggled to get onto the last flights leaving Kabul airport before Tuesday’s deadline for evacuations.

Sir Keir Starmer responds to news of Britons’ deaths

19:20 , Lamiat Sabin

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he was “incredibly sad” to hear that two British nationals and a child of a British citizen were among those who died in an attack on Kabul airport yesterday.

He added: “Getting your family to safety should not cost you your life. We must urgently help those left behind to avoid any more tragic deaths.”

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Three US Marines and Navy medic killed in attack named

19:30 , Lamiat Sabin

Some of the 13 US service members killed in the airport suicide bombing in Kabul yesterday have been named.

Rylee McCollum, a US Marine, was from Wyoming and had only graduated from a local high school two years ago.

The US Defense Department has not formally announced the names of the American service members killed in the attack, but Mark Gordon, Wyoming’s governor and superintendent of education, said that McCollum was among the dead.

Facebook pages appearing to belong to McCollum and his wife show wedding photos from May and indicate that the couple were expecting a child.

Kareem Nikoui from California, and David Lee Espinoza from Texas, were two other young men in the Marines that were killed when a suicide bomb exploded outside Hamid Karzai International Airport.

US Navy medic Max Soviak, in his early 20s, had also died.

Islamic State militants claimed responsibility for the attack.

Armed forces take Pen Farthing and animals through airport

19:42 , Lamiat Sabin

An ex-Royal Marine who said he had been “turned away” while trying to leave Kabul with his rescue animals has been assisted by UK armed forces in his bid to flee Afghanistan.

Paul “Pen” Farthing had set up the Nowzad animal charity in Afghanistan in the mid-2000s after serving with the British army.

He was attempting to get his staff and hundreds of rescue cats and dogs out of the country yesterday when they were turned away from the airport and became caught up in the chaos resulting from the bomb attack.

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Another tweet by the MOD adds: “On the direction of the Defence Secretary [Ben Wallace], clearance for their charter flight has been sponsored by the UK Government.”

It comes after Mr Wallace said on earlier this week that he won’t “prioritise pets over people” in evacuation efforts.

Taliban to ask Qatar for help in running Kabul airport

20:00 , Lamiat Sabin

The Taliban will ask Qatar for technical assistance in operating Kabul airport, Qatari based Al Jazeera news channel reported today citing a source in the Islamist movement.

The Taliban has already asked Turkey for technical help to run the airport. But next Tuesday’s deadline for all foreign military forces to pull out of Afghanistan applies equally to Turkish troops.

Earlier today, two officials told Reuters Turkey will not help run the airport after NATO’s withdrawal unless the Taliban agree to a Turkish security presence after yesterday’s deadly attacks.

Reporting by Reuters

About 12,500 people airlifted out in one day, says US

20:18 , Jane Dalton

About 12,500 people were airlifted from Afghanistan yesterday, raising the total number of evacuees amid the Taliban takeover of Kabul to about 105,000 since mid-August, the White House says.

Renewed evacuation efforts ramped up a day before the militant group entered the Afghan capital on 15 August. Since the end of July, about 110,600 have been evacuated, the White House said.

About 5,000 of the 12,500 individuals from yesterday were airlifted out that night, according to the White House tallies.

A family arrives in the US from Kabul (AP)
A family arrives in the US from Kabul (AP)

Death toll rises to more than 180

20:24 , Jane Dalton

Two officials have said the number of Afghans killed has risen to 169, one of the country’s highest death tolls in a terror attack.

It brings the total death tally to 182. The US said it was the most lethal day for American forces in Afghanistan since 2011.

The number of dead was still subject to change as authorities examined the dismembered remains, they said.

The 13 US service members who died included 10 Marines, a Navy sailor and an Army soldier.

Pulitzer £70k grant to help Afghans in journalism

20:40 , Lamiat Sabin

The Pulitzer Prize Board announced a special citation and emergency grant today for people in Afghanistan who risked their safety to help produce news stories and images.

The citation comes with a £70,000 ($100,000) emergency relief grant to help men and women involved in journalism in Afghanistan either resettle or to continue their work safely.

The Pulitzer Board’s citation came a day after a suicide attack at Kabul’s airport killed more than 100 Afghans, 13 US service members, and three UK nationals.

Board co-chairs Katherine Boo, Gail Collins and John Daniszewski said: “It’s critical in a moment of stark threat to support those Afghans whose bravery, skill, and commitment to the ideals of a free press have helped create so much important journalism in recent decades.”

The grant will be administered by the not-for-profit Committee to Protect Journalists.

US Covid jabs site opened for arriving Afghans

20:48 , Jane Dalton

The US government has opened a mass Covid-19 vaccination site for arriving Afghans near Dulles International Airport, where some of the thousands fleeing the Taliban are now arriving daily.The White House has confirmed that the site — which was set up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency — has begun administering vaccinations to the Afghan evacuees.

A second mass vaccination site is expected open in the coming days for evacuees who will be arriving at the Philadelphia International Airport, according to a senior administration official.

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