KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Pentagon said Thursday morning there was an explosion outside Kabul airport.
Spokesman John Kirby said there was no immediate word on casualties in the blast Thursday.
Thousands of Afghans have been gathered at the airport for days trying to flee the country since the Taliban takeover earlier this month. Western nations had warned of a possible attack.
Western nations warned Thursday of a possible attack on Kabul’s airport in the waning days of a massive airlift, as thousands of Afghans desperate to flee Taliban rule continued to flock to the gates.
Several countries urged people to avoid the airport, where an official said there was a threat of a suicide bombing. But just days — or even hours for some nations — before the evacuation effort ends, few appeared to heed the call.
Over the last week, the airport has been the scene of some of the most searing images of the chaotic end of America’s longest war and the Taliban’s takeover, as flight after flight took off carrying those who fear a return to the militants’ brutal rule.
Already, some countries have ended their evacuations and begun to withdraw their soldiers and diplomats, signaling the beginning of the end of one of history’s largest airlifts. The Taliban have so far honored a pledge not to attack Western forces during the evacuation, but insist the foreign troops must be out by America’s self-imposed deadline of Aug. 31.
Overnight, warnings emerged from Western capitals about a threat from Afghanistan’s Islamic State group affiliate, which likely has seen its ranks boosted by the Taliban’s freeing of prisoners during their blitz across the country.
British Armed Forces Minister James Heappey told the BBC on Thursday there was ”very, very credible reporting of an imminent attack” at the airport, possibly within “hours.” Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said his country had received information from the U.S. and other countries about the “threat of suicide attacks on the mass of people.”
The acting U.S. ambassador to Kabul, Ross Wilson, said the security threat at the Kabul airport overnight was “clearly regarded as credible, as imminent, as compelling.” But in an interview with ABC News, he would not give details and did not say whether the threat remained.
Wilson also said there remain “safe ways” for Americans to reach the airport, but “there undoubtedly will be” Afghans who had worked with or for the U.S. in Afghanistan who will not be able to get out before the evacuation ends.
Late Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy warned citizens at three airport gates to leave immediately due to an unspecified security threat. Australia, Britain and New Zealand also advised their citizens Thursday not to go to the airport, with Australia’s foreign minister saying there was a “very high threat of a terrorist attack.”
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied that any attack was imminent. “It’s not correct,” he wrote in a text message after being asked about the warnings. He did not elaborate.
On Thursday, the Taliban sprayed a water cannon at those gathered at one airport gate to try to drive the crowd away, as someone launched tear gas canisters elsewhere. While some fled, others just sat on the ground, covered their faces and waited in the noxious fumes.
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