‘Just Shoot Me’: Afghan Star Recalls Surreal Kabul Escape

Afghan pop star Aryana Sayeed poses during an interview in Istanbul on September 8, 2021. – . (Photo by Ozan KOSE / AFP)

 

Afghan pop star Aryana Sayeed recalls asking her fiance one thing as they snuck into Kabul’s chaotic airport after the Taliban moved in: “Don’t let them take me away alive”.

Aryana, who brags of 1.4 million Instagram followers and is often likened to US megastar Kim Kardashian, had drawn the religious conservatives’ ire for her women’s rights activism and figure-hugging clothes.

A singer and former judge of a popular Afghan music talent show, the 36-year-old could not walk down the streets of Kabul without attracting a gawking crowd of selfie-snapping fans.

This made her escape from the city she loved that much more surreal.

Her first attempt on August 15 — the day the Islamists entered Kabul while US forces scrambled to evacuate foreigners and some Afghans after 20 years of war — failed because the plane never took off.

The stakes could hardly be higher when she made her second attempt the following day, with Kalashnikov-toting fighters surrounding the airport and allied forces trying to control the desperate crowds at its gates.

Her fiance and manager, Hasib Sayed, was communicating with her by walkie-talkie in a second car.

“I said to him, you know Hasib… if I am about to be taken away alive, just shoot me. Just shoot me in the head,” she told AFP at her swank Istanbul apartment.

“That was the only thing I was scared of. I wasn’t scared of dying or anything.”

 

Afghan pop star Aryana Sayeed recalls asking her fiance one thing as they snuck into Kabul’s chaotic airport after the Taliban moved in: “Don’t let them take me away alive”.
 (Photo by Ozan KOSE / AFP)

 

‘Women were fainting’

Aryana knew she was taking a risk when she launched her own fashion brand in Kabul just as US forces were speeding up their withdrawal and the Taliban were retaking huge swathes of the country in July.

“I always wanted to give hope to the future, so I decided to invest,” she recalled.

Those dreams were a distant memory when she found herself with a little boy she did not even know sitting on her lap, her face veiled, trying to pass off as a normal family as they passed Taliban checkpoints en route to the airport.

“We made up a story as well. I remember we told this little kid if we get stopped, you have to tell them I am your mum and my name is not Aryana. It’s Freshta,” she said.

Her fiance reached the gate first, pushing through the crowds.

“People were pushing each other, there were children, little babies, the women were fainting because of a lack of oxygen and space,” she said.

US soldiers initially refused to let them through, giving priority to American citizens, but a translator recognised Hasib and told the soldiers that he was the fiance of a big star whose life was in jeopardy.

 

Afghan pop star Aryana, who brags 1.4 million Instagram followers and is often likened to US megastar Kim Kardashian, had drawn the religious conservatives’ ire for her women’s rights activism and figure-hugging clothes. (Photo by Ozan KOSE / AFP)

 

‘Not the new Taliban’

The couple made their way to Doha, Kuwait and the US, eventually returning to the flat they had in Istanbul.

The women she has left behind, Aryana says with bittersweet pride, are more educated and self-aware than those the Taliban forced out of school and work when they last ruled Afghanistan in 1996-2001.

“The women of Afghanistan are not the same women they were 20 years ago,” she said.

“They are definitely not going to accept this,” she said of fundamentalist Islam.

Just as important now, Aryana said, was for governments to understand that the Taliban today were the same as those who ruled before the September 11, 2001 terror attacks led to the US-led invasion.

“I hope the world realises this is not the changed or the new Taliban,” she said.

‘Thirsty for my blood’

Aryana has dedicated more than half her music to Afghan women. But the risk to her own life was simply too great to stay behind.

Even before Kabul fell, she said she felt “like a prisoner” because fundamentalists viewed her as a threat.

“If the Taliban are around, there is definitely no space for me because the Taliban are thirsty for my blood,” she said.

But while inspired by global pop icons such as Jennifer Lopez and Beyonce, Aryana draws a line at direct comparisons.

“Imagine being a judge on a musical show and you have to wear an armoured jacket not to be killed. I don’t think any of them has lived that,” she said.

“I think I have had a very different life from them,” she mused. “I wish I could have a life like them, but how can you blame your fortune for being born in a war-torn country like Afghanistan?”

First Evacuation Flight From Kabul Since US Exit Lands In Doha

Evacuees from Afghanistan arrive at Hamad International Airport in Qatar’s capital Doha on the first flight carrying foreigners out of the Afghan capital since the conclusion of the US withdrawal last month, September 9, 2021. (Photo by KARIM JAAFAR / AFP)

 

Around 100 passengers including Americans arrived in Doha after flying from Kabul airport Thursday, AFP correspondents said, the first flight ferrying out foreigners since a US-led evacuation ended.

Doha, a major transit point for Afghan refugees, has said it worked with Turkey to swiftly resume operations at Kabul’s airport to allow the flow of people and aid.

AFP correspondents said they saw passengers disembark at Qatar’s Hamad International Airport, marking the first successful flight of its type since the chaotic airlift of more than 120,000 people concluded last month.

The Qatar Airways Boeing 777 had “around 113” passengers including Americans, Canadians, Germans and Ukrainians, with all passengers due to be received at a compound for Afghan refugees in Doha, a source with knowledge of the operation told AFP.

Sources had earlier said that as many as 200 people were aboard.

A turbaned man with a suitcase was followed by three veiled, masked women off the plane and onto the tarmac at Qatar’s civilian airport, while other arrivals struggled with luggage.

The passengers who included several children, some of whom filmed their arrival, were directed to an airport bus to begin the next leg of their journey to a Qatari holding facility before returning to their home countries.

Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani praised the Taliban for allowing the flight.

“We managed to fly the first plane with passengers… we thank (the Taliban) for their cooperation,” Sheikh Mohammed said in televised remarks.

READ ALSO: France Grants Citizenship To 12,000 Foreign COVID-19 Frontline Workers

“This is actually what we are expecting from the Taliban, to see these positive statements translated into action,” said Sheikh Mohammed.

“I think this is a positive message, that we are supporting.”

In the days that followed the Taliban’s blitz, Kabul airport became a tragic symbol of desperation among Afghans terrified of the militants’ return to power.

Thousands of people crowded around its gates daily, and some even clinged to jets as they took off.

More than 100 people were killed, including 13 US troops, in a suicide attack on August 26 near the airport that was claimed by the Islamic State group’s local chapter.

Qatar’s special envoy to Afghanistan, Mutlaq al-Qahtani, called it a “historic day” for the airport.

“We are grateful to our Qatari friends for facilitating a flight carrying 13 British nationals from Kabul to safety in Doha today,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.

“Qatar has acted as the central intermediary between the Taliban and the international community in recent years.”

Numerous countries, including Britain and the US, have relocated their embassies from Kabul to Doha in the aftermath of the takeover.

AFP

EU Mulls Reaction Force After Kabul Evacuation

A logo for the European Union

 

EU defence ministers on Thursday weighed proposals for a European rapid reaction force after the bloc was sidelined during the US-led evacuation from Afghanistan.

Calls have grown for the 27-nation group to develop its own joint military capability to respond quickly to crises in the wake of the chaotic scenes at Kabul airport after the Taliban seized power.

“Afghanistan has shown that deficiencies in our strategic autonomy come with a price and that the only way forward is to combine our forces and strengthen not only our capacity but also our will to act,” EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell told journalists after the meeting in Slovenia.

“If we want to be able to act autonomously and not be dependent on the choices made by others, even if these others are our friends and allies, then we have to develop our own capacities.”

Among the propositions is a plan, first aired in May, to set up a 5,000-strong force as part of a review of the EU’s overall strategy due to be presented in draft form in November.

But the proposal is yet to gain EU-wide support and there are major doubts over whether there is the political will to engage such a force. The bloc, for instance, never used a system of so-called battlegroups it set up in 2007.

“The EU and its Member States must carry greater weight in the world — to defend our interests and values and to protect our citizens,” European Council President Charles Michel wrote in an online post.

“The chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan forces us to accelerate honest thinking about European defence.”

– ‘Autonomous’ Europe –

Slovenian Defence Minister Matej Tonin — whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency and hosted the meeting at the state-owned Brdo Castle estate northwest of the capital Ljubljana — estimated that a rapid response force could number “5,000 to 20,000” personnel.

He called for a new system that would see troops from “willing countries” dispatched in the name of the EU if just a majority of members states agreed, rather than the unanimity required for the battlegroups.

German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said the lesson from Afghanistan was that Europe must be able to “act more independently” to be a credible actor.

But she insisted “it is very important that we don’t act as an alternative to NATO and the Americans”.

She appeared to push back against the idea of a standing force, saying on Twitter that “coalitions of the willing” among members states could come together to tackle future crises.

Latvian minister Artis Pabriks said the bloc needed to show it had the “political will” to use any force if the plan was to lead anywhere.

He noted that the battlegroups programme has been around for over a decade as part of the EU’s common defence policy but asked, “have we ever used it?”.

Debate has raged for decades over what role Brussels should play on defence. EU member nations — most of which are also NATO allies — have often been reluctant to agree moves to integrate military capabilities.

Ambitions on common defence have gathered steam in recent years in part due to the exit from the bloc of Britain, which was opposed to anything that might lead to a European army or dilute support for NATO.

AFP

Rockets Fired At Kabul Airport As US Troops Pull Out

In this image courtesy of the US Air Force, a US Air Force security forces raven, assigned to the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, maintains a security cordon around a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in support of Operation Allies Refuge at Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA), Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 20, 2021. Taylor Crul / US AIR FORCE / AFP
In this image courtesy of the US Air Force, a US Air Force security forces raven, assigned to the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, maintains a security cordon around a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in support of Operation Allies Refuge at Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA), Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 20, 2021. Taylor Crul / US AIR FORCE / AFP

 

Rockets were fired at Kabul’s airport on Monday where US troops were racing to complete their withdrawal from Afghanistan and evacuate allies under the threat of Islamic State group attacks.

President Joe Biden has set a deadline of Tuesday to withdraw all US forces from Afghanistan, drawing to a close his nation’s longest military conflict, which began in retaliation for the September 11 attacks.

The return of the hardline Islamist Taliban movement, which was toppled in 2001 but took back power a fortnight ago, triggered an exodus of terrified people aboard US-led evacuation flights.

Those flights, which have taken more than 120,000 people out of Kabul airport, will officially end on Tuesday when the last of the thousands of American troops pull out.

But US forces are now focused chiefly on flying themselves and American diplomats out safely.

The Islamic State group, rivals of the Taliban, pose the biggest threat to the withdrawal after carrying out a suicide bomb attack at the perimeter of the airport late last week that claimed more than 100 lives, including those of 13 US troops.

Biden had warned more attacks were highly likely and the United States said it carried out an air strike on Sunday night in Kabul on an IS-prepared car bomb.

That was followed on Monday morning by rockets being fired at the airport.

‘We can’t sleep’

The White House confirmed there had been a rocket attack directed at the airport, but said operations there were “uninterrupted”.

“The President… has reconfirmed his order that commanders redouble their efforts to prioritise doing whatever is necessary to protect our forces on the ground,” the White House statement said.

An AFP photographer on Monday took images of a destroyed car with a launcher system still visible in the back seat.

A suspected US drone strike had hit the car, about two kilometres (1.2 miles) from the airport.

A Taliban official at the scene said he believed five rockets had been fired, and all were destroyed by the airport’s missile defence systems.

While there were no reports of fatalities or airport damage from the rocket attacks, they caused greater anxieties for locals already traumatised by years of war.

“Since the Americans have taken control of the airport, we can’t sleep properly,” Abdullah, who lives near the airport and gave only one name, told AFP.

“It is either gun firing, rockets, sirens or sounds of huge planes that disturb us. And now that they are being directly targeted, it can put our lives in danger.”

‘Potential loss of innocent life’

The United States said the air strike on Sunday night on the car bomb had eliminated another threat from the Islamic State jihadists.

However, it may have also have killed civilians.

“We are aware of reports of civilian casualties following our strike on a vehicle in Kabul today,” Captain Bill Urban, a US Central Command spokesman, said in a statement.

“We would be deeply saddened by any potential loss of innocent life.”

In recent years, the Islamic State’s Afghanistan-Pakistan chapter has been responsible for some of the deadliest attacks in those countries.

They have massacred civilians at mosques, public squares, schools, and even hospitals.

While both IS and the Taliban are hardline Sunni Islamists, they are bitter foes — with each claiming to be the true flag-bearers of jihad.

Last week’s suicide bombing at the airport led to the worst single-day death toll for the US military in Afghanistan since 2011.

The IS threat has forced the US military and the Taliban to co-operate in ensuring security at the airport in a way unthinkable just weeks ago.

On Saturday, Taliban fighters escorted a steady stream of Afghans from buses to the main passenger terminal, handing them over to US forces for evacuation.

Taliban leader

The Taliban have promised a softer brand of rule compared with their first stint in power, which the US military ended because the group gave sanctuary to Al-Qaeda.

But many Afghans fear a repeat of the Taliban’s brutal interpretation of Islamic law, as well as violent retribution for working with foreign militaries, Western missions or the previous US-backed government.

Western allies have warned many thousands of at-risk Afghans have not been able to get on the evacuation flights.

On Sunday, the Taliban revealed their supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada was in southern Afghanistan and planning to make a public appearance.

“He is present in Kandahar. He has been living there from the very beginning,” said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

 

AFP

US Carries Out Air Strike To Stop Car Bomb In Kabul

An Afghan refugee girl, fleeing the Afghan capital Kabul, stands on the tarmac after disembarking from a US air force plane upon their arrival at Pristina International airport near Pristina on August 29, 2021. Kosovo has offered to take in temporarily thousands of Afghan refugees evacuated by US forces from Kabul until their asylum claims are processed. Armend NIMANI / AFP

 

The United States said it destroyed an explosive-laden vehicle with an airstrike in Kabul on Sunday, hours after President Joe Biden warned of another terror attack in the capital as a massive airlift of tens of thousands of Afghans entered its last days.

A Taliban spokesman confirmed the incident, saying a car bomb destined for the airport had been destroyed — and that a possible second strike had hit a nearby house.

The US said it had only struck the vehicle, but added that secondary blasts indicated “a substantial amount of explosive material”.

Local media reported possible civilian casualties, which the US said it was assessing.

And with just two days to go until the agreed-upon date for US withdrawal, the Taliban revealed their supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada was in southern Afghanistan and planning to make a public appearance.

“He is present in Kandahar. He has been living there from the very beginning,” said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

“He will soon appear in public,” added deputy spokesman Bilal Karimi of the leader, whose whereabouts have remained largely unknown and who has never made a public appearance.

The US airstrike came after a suicide bomber from the Islamic State group on Thursday targeted US troops stopping huge crowds of people from entering Kabul’s airport. About 114,000 people have been evacuated since August 15, when the Taliban swept back into power.

More than 100 people died in the attack, including 13 US service personnel. Biden traveled Sunday to an air force base in Delaware to attend the somber ritual transfer of their remains.

The attack and terror threats have slowed the airlift ahead of Biden’s deadline for evacuations to end by Tuesday.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday that some 300 Americans still in Afghanistan were seeking to leave the country.

“They are not going to be stuck in Afghanistan,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on the Fox network, adding that the US had “a mechanism to get them out”.

The Pentagon said Saturday that retaliation drone strikes had killed two “high-level” IS jihadists in eastern Afghanistan, but Biden warned of more imminent attacks from the group.

The US embassy in Kabul later released a warning of credible threats at specific areas of the airport, including access gates.

In recent years, the Islamic State’s Afghanistan-Pakistan chapter has been responsible for some of the deadliest attacks in those countries.

They have massacred civilians at mosques, public squares, schools, and even hospitals.

While both IS and the Taliban are hardline Sunni Islamists, they are bitter foes — with each claiming to be the true flag-bearers of jihad.

Unthinkable Co-operation

The IS attack has forced the US military and the Taliban to co-operate in ensuring security at the airport in a way unthinkable just weeks ago.

On Saturday, Taliban fighters escorted a steady stream of Afghans from buses to the main passenger terminal, handing them over to US forces for evacuation.

After a 20-year war, the foes were within clear sight of each other, separated by just 30 metres.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said US troops had started withdrawing — without saying how many were left.

Heartbreaking

Western allies that helped with the airlift have mostly ended their evacuation flights. Some voiced despair at not being able to fly out everyone at risk.

The head of Britain’s armed forces, General Sir Nick Carter, told the BBC it was “heartbreaking” that “we haven’t been able to bring everybody out”.

A White House official said 2,900 people were evacuated in a 24-hour period between Saturday and Sunday, a drastic reduction from earlier in the week.

France and Britain will on Monday urge the United Nations to work for the creation of a “safe zone” in Kabul to protect humanitarian operations, French President Emmanuel Macron said.

But Macron said discussions with the Taliban about evacuations do not indicate France is recognizing the hardline group as the new rulers of Afghanistan.

“The Taliban are the ones in control… we have to have these discussions from a practical point of view. This does not mean there will be recognition,” Macron told TF1 television during a visit to Iraq, insisting the Taliban must meet “conditions” on humanitarian matters, especially women’s rights.

And on Sunday, approximately 100 countries announced in a joint statement they would continue processing documents for both Afghans and foreign nationals to leave the country even after the US withdrawal deadline of Tuesday.

“We have received assurances from the Taliban” that all those with the right travel documentation “will be allowed to proceed in a safe and orderly manner,” the statement, released by the US State Department, said.

Also on Sunday US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he and foreign ministers from France, Germany, Britain, Turkey, NATO and other “key partners” would meet virtually to discuss an “aligned approach” on Afghanistan going forward.

The UN said it was bracing for a “worst-case scenario” of up to half a million more refugees from Afghanistan by the end of 2021.

Another Attack Likely Soon At Kabul Airport, Says US

A file photo of US President Joe Biden

 

US military commanders believe that another terror attack like the deadly suicide bombing at Kabul airport is “highly likely in the next 24-36 hours,” President Joe Biden warned Saturday.

After a briefing from his national security team, Biden said in a statement that a US drone strike targeting the Islamic State-Khorasan group, which claimed responsibility for Thursday’s carnage at the airport, was “not the last.”

“The situation on the ground continues to be extremely dangerous, and the threat of terrorist attacks on the airport remains high. Our commanders informed me that an attack is highly likely in the next 24-36 hours,” Biden said.

READ ALSO: Incendiary Balloons From Gaza Cause Fires In Israel

Scores of Afghan civilians were killed in the Kabul bombing Thursday, along with 13 US troops — several of them born around the time US military operations in Afghanistan began 20 years ago.

The Pentagon said Saturday it had killed two “high profile” targets — logistics experts for the jihadist group — and wounded another in a drone strike in eastern Afghanistan in retaliation for the suicide bombing.

No civilians were hurt in the attack, Major General Hank Taylor told a news conference in Washington.

“The fact that two of these individuals are no longer walking on the face of the Earth, that’s a good thing,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.

US troops have been scrambling in dangerous and chaotic conditions to complete a massive evacuation operation from the Kabul airport by an August 31 deadline.

Biden has pledged to stick to the agreed cut-off and had vowed to punish those responsible for the suicide blast. He said Saturday that the drone attack would not be the last.

“We will continue to hunt down any person involved in that heinous attack and make them pay,” he said. “Whenever anyone seeks to harm the United States or attack our troops, we will respond. That will never be in doubt.”

 

AFP

US Tells Citizens To Leave Kabul Airport Gates

This handout photo courtesy of the US Air Force shows US Air Force loadmasters and pilots assigned to the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, load passengers aboard a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III in support of the Afghanistan evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA), Afghanistan,, August 24, 2021. – (Photo by Donald R. ALLEN / US AIR FORCE / AFP) 

 

 

The United States urged its citizens Friday to “immediately” leave the gates around Kabul’s airport, where a suicide bomber this week targeted crowds trying to flee Taliban rule.

Earlier Friday, the Pentagon said that the high-risk Kabul airlift operation to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies still faced “specific, credible threats”.

“US citizens who are at the Abbey gate, East gate, North gate or the New Ministry of Interior gate now should leave immediately,” the US Embassy in Kabul said in a security alert.

“Because of security threats at the Kabul airport, we continue to advise US citizens to avoid traveling to the airport and to avoid airport gates,” the embassy said.

The alert gave no further details on what the security threats might be, but it followed Thursday’s attack that killed scores of people including 13 US servicemen.

The blast claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group targeted US forces, but hit hardest the mass of people who had converged on the airport in a desperate bid to escape the Taliban’s feared hardline rule.

Afghan Evacuation Flights Resume After Deadly Suicide Bombings

An Afghan man leaves a plane as people arrive from Afghanistan with an evacuation flight at Rinas Airport in Tirana on August 27, 2021..
Gent SHKULLAKU / AFP

 

Last-ditch evacuation flights took off from Kabul airport on Friday, a day after twin suicide bombings on crowds trying to flee Taliban-controlled Afghanistan killed at least 85 people, including 13 US servicemen.

The bombings, claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group, injected further panic into the final days of an already frenzied US-led airlift.

The attacks targeted US forces but hit hardest the mass of people fearing life under the Taliban who converged on the airport in a desperate bid to board a flight out.

At least 72 people among the crowd were killed, as well as the 13 American troops, according to various authorities.

But with people searching for missing relatives in hospitals on Friday, there were fears the death toll would climb.

President Joe Biden, under enormous pressure over his administration’s handling of the Afghan crisis, vowed to punish those responsible.

“We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay,” he said.

However Biden, determined to end two decades of war in Afghanistan and citing fears of more IS attacks, also insisted that he would stick to his August 31 deadline to end the airlift.

On Friday morning, some evacuation flights resumed with queues of people seen lining up on the tarmac but there were no more crowds near the sites of the blasts, according to AFP reporters.

Britain and Spain announced their evacuation operations would end Friday, after Canada and Australia had already stopped their flights.

More than 100,000 people have been flown out of the country since the Taliban swept into power on August 15.

 

‘More extreme’

 

DULLES, VIRGINIA – AUGUST 25: People evacuated from Kabul Afghanistan wait to board a bus that will take them to a refugee processing center at the Dulles International Airport on August 25, 2021, in Dulles, Virginia. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images/AFP

 

The Taliban have promised a softer brand of rule compared with their first stint in power, which ended in 2001 when the United States invaded because they gave sanctuary to Al-Qaeda.

But many Afghans fear a repeat of their brutal interpretation of Islamic law, as well as violent retribution for working with foreign militaries, Western missions or the previous US-backed government.

Western allies have repeatedly warned the United States that it is impossible to get all at-risk Afghans out by Tuesday.

The Taliban have allowed US-led forces to conduct the airlift, while planning to finalise their own government as soon as the American troops left.

But the IS jihadists, bloody rivals of the Taliban with their own track record of barbaric attacks, were intent on capitalising on the chaos in Kabul.

In recent years, the Islamic State’s Afghanistan-Pakistan chapter has been responsible for some of the deadliest attacks in those countries.

It has massacred civilians at mosques, shrines, public squares and even hospitals.

“These are people that are even more extreme than the Taliban and are basically at war with the Taliban. So it is a horribly complex situation,” Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton said.

Terror, devastation

 

DULLES, VIRGINIA – AUGUST 25: People evacuated from Kabul Afghanistan wait to board a bus that will take them to a refugee processing center at the Dulles International Airport on August 25, 2021, in Dulles, Virginia. 
Anna Moneymaker / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

 

The attackers targeted people trying to reach access gates at the airport, creating scenes of terror and devastation.

Immediately after the blast, one man held a semi-conscious victim by the elbow, trying to stop his head from slipping beneath the surface of the murky water in a canal along the perimeter of the airport.

“I will never, ever want to go (to the airport) again. Death to America, its evacuation and visas,” said Milad, who was near the first blast with his wife and three children, told AFP.

The Italian NGO Emergency said the hospital it operates in Kabul had been overwhelmed by more than 60 casualties, 16 of whom were pronounced dead on arrival.

The injured “could not speak, many were terrified, their eyes totally lost in emptiness, their gaze blank”, the hospital’s medical coordinator Alberto Zanin said in a post on the group’s Twitter account.

 

 ‘Bear responsibility’

 

 

The attacks led to the worst single-day death toll for the US military in Afghanistan since 2011.

A clearly shaken Biden went before TV cameras to address the American people, describing the killed US troops as heroes.

Asked by a reporter if he bore any responsibility for the deaths, Biden said: “I bear responsibility fundamentally for all that’s happened of late.”

The Taliban, which condemned the blasts, emphasised they happened in an area under US military control.

The attacks were also denounced around the world, with Britain describing them as barbaric and Germany as heinous.

The United Nations called an urgent meeting of the permanent members of the Security Council for Monday.

-AFP

‘We Will Hunt You Down’: Biden Warns Kabul Bombers

US President Joe Biden delivers remarks about the situation in Afghanistan in the East Room of the White House on August 16, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP)

 

US President Joe Biden pledged Thursday to hunt down the perpetrators of the suicide bombings that killed 12 American troops in Kabul and said the United States will not be deterred from its mission to evacuate thousands of civilians from Afghanistan.

“To those who carried out this attack as well as anyone who wishes America harm, know this: We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay,” Biden said.

In a solemn address from the White House, he praised the slain US servicemen as “heroes” and said the evacuation mission from Kabul will continue until the planned US withdrawal date of August 31.

“We will not be deterred by terrorists. We will not let them stop our mission. We will continue the evacuation,” Biden said.

READ ALSO: Explosion Outside Kabul Airport, No Word On Casualties
READ ALSO: Afghans Race To Flee Taliban After Biden Confirms August 31st Airlift Deadline

Smoke rises from an explosion outside the airport in Kabul.

 

He reaffirmed the August 31 deadline for all US troops to leave Afghanistan and said the US forces would fly out as many people as possible before that date.

There remains an “opportunity for the next several days, between now and the 31st, to be able to get them out,” he said.

“Knowing the threat, knowing that we may very well have another attack, the military has concluded that that’s what we should do. I think they are right.”

Biden also said he has seen no evidence that the Taliban colluded with Islamic State militants in carrying out the deadly attacks in Kabul.

“There is no evidence thus far that I’ve been given as a consequence by any of the commanders in the field that there has been collusion between the Taliban and ISIS in carrying out what happened today,” he said.

AFP

Death Toll In Kabul Airport Blasts Rises To 72 – Former Health Officials

Smoke rises from an explosion outside the airport in Kabul. AFP

 

The death toll from two blasts at Kabul’s airport has risen to 72, two officials who worked in the ministry of health until the Taliban takeover told AFP on Friday.

“There are many women and children among the victims. Most of the wounded people are in trauma and shock,” one of the former officials said, adding the toll only accounted for those taken to city hospitals.

READ ALSO: Explosion Outside Kabul Airport, No Word On Casualties
READ ALSO: Afghans Race To Flee Taliban After Biden Confirms August 31st Airlift Deadline

At Least 12 US Troops, Civilians Killed In Kabul Blast

Smoke rises from an explosion outside the airport in Kabul.

 

Twelve US servicemen were killed and 15 injured in two suicide bombing attacks in Kabul on Thursday by Islamic State militants, the head of US Central Command said.

“A number of Afghan civilians were also killed and injured in the attack,” said General Kenneth McKenzie.

However, General McKenzie said the US airlift in Kabul will continue despite the attack.

“We continue to execute our number one mission, which is to get as many evacuees and citizens out of Afghanistan,” said General McKenzie.

“ISIS will not deter us from accomplishing the mission,” he said.

Meanwhile, General McKenzie vowed retaliation for the deadly attack.

“We are working very hard right now to determine attribution, to determine who is associated with this cowardly attack, and we’re prepared to take action against them,” said General McKenzie.

He added that US forces were “prepared and ready to defend against” possible further IS attacks.

Seven People Die In Chaos Near Kabul Airport –  UK

File photo: Afghan people climb atop a plane as they wait at the airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021, after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan’s 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city’s airport trying to flee the group’s feared hardline brand of Islamist rule.
Wakil Kohsar / AFP

 

Britain said Sunday that seven Afghans have died in the chaos near Kabul airport as the British defence secretary expressed support for extending Washington’s end-of-the-month deadline to permit the evacuation of so many people.

The United States and its allies have been struggling to cope with the thousands of foreign nationals and Afghans trying to flee Afghanistan in the week since the Taliban retook power.

“Our sincere thoughts are with the families of the seven Afghan civilians who have sadly died in crowds in Kabul,” a defence ministry spokesman said without giving the circumstances.

Britain’s Sky News had on Saturday aired footage of at least three dead bodies covered in white tarpaulins outside the airport.

Sky reporter Stuart Ramsay, who was at the airport, said that people at the front of one part of the crowd were being “crushed”, while others were “dehydrated and terrified”.

The defence ministry spokesman said: “Conditions on the ground remain extremely challenging but we are doing everything we can to manage the situation as safely and securely as possible.”

The ministry said separately that the UK had now evacuated nearly 4,000 people from Afghanistan since August 13.

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Meanwhile, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace issued what could be read as a plea to Washington for more flexibility over US President Joe Biden’s August 31 target date to complete the rescue missions.

“If the US timetable remains, we have no time to lose to get the majority of the people waiting out,” he wrote in the Mail on Sunday.

“Perhaps the Americans will be permitted to stay longer, and they will have our complete support if they do.”

US President Joe Biden has said the deadline could be extended for the airlifts. “I think we can get it done by then, but we’re going to make that judgment as we go,” he said Friday

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is seeking to speak to his US counterpart Secretary of State Antony Blinken to discuss extending the August 31 deadline, according to the Sunday Times.

AFP