Kabul: Western countries warned on Thursday that the Kabul airport might be attacked. Thousands of people flocked there in the days when the large-scale airlift was about to end, trying to escape Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Britain said the attack could happen within a few hours.
Several countries urge people to avoid airports, and Belgium says there is a threat of suicide bombings. But only a few days before the end of the evacuation operation and the retreat of the U.S. troops, almost no one noticed the call.
In the past week, the airport has been the scene of some of the hottest scenes of the chaotic end of America’s longest war and the Taliban takeover, as one plane after another landed to pull out those who were afraid of returning to the brutal rule of the militants.
Some countries have ended their evacuation and started withdrawing their soldiers and diplomats, which marked the end of one of the largest airlifts in history. So far, the Taliban have fulfilled their promise not to attack Western troops during the evacuation period, but insist that foreign troops must withdraw before the August 31 deadline set by the United States.
But overnight, Western capitals issued new warnings about the threat of Afghan Islamic State Group affiliates, and the Taliban released prisoners during a nationwide blitzkrieg, which may have boosted its ranking.
British Armed Forces Minister James Shipper told the BBC on Thursday that the airport has “very, very credibly reported the upcoming attack”, possibly “within a few hours.”
Heappey admitted that people are eager to leave, “Many people in the line are eager to seize the opportunity, but reports of this threat are indeed very credible, and indeed imminent.”
“With the emergence of further reports, we are likely to change the recommendation again and re-process personnel, but there is no guarantee of this,” he added.
Late Wednesday, the US embassy warned three citizens at the airport gates to leave immediately due to unspecified security threats. Australia, the United Kingdom and New Zealand also advised their citizens not to go to the airport on Thursday. The Australian Foreign Minister said that “the threat of terrorist attacks is very high.”
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied that any attack was imminent. “This is incorrect,” he wrote in a text message after being asked about the warning. He did not elaborate.
On Thursday, the Taliban sprayed water cannons on people gathered at the gate of an airport, trying to disperse the crowd because someone fired tear gas canisters elsewhere. Some people ran away, some just sat on the ground, covering their faces, waiting in the poisonous gas.
Nadia is a 27-year-old Afghan woman. For fear of retaliation, she only revealed her name. She took her 2-year-old daughter out of the airport. She and her husband had worked with the coalition forces and they missed a call they believed to be the State Department and tried to enter the airport without any luck. Her husband huddled in the crowd and tried to let them in.
“We must find a way to evacuate because our lives are in danger,” Nadia said. “My husband received several threats from unknown sources. We have no choice but to escape.”
While Nadia was waiting, gunfire echoed in the area. She said: “Due to the large number of people, anarchy has been created, and the chaos is blamed on the United States.
After the Taliban took over, many Afghans felt the same way. This hard-line Islamic organization regained control of the country nearly 20 years after being expelled in the invasion led by the United States after the 9/11 attacks. This was orchestrated by Al-Qaida under the auspices of the organization.
Out of fear of the attack, military cargo planes leaving Kabul Airport have used flares to stop any potential missile fire. But there are also concerns that someone might detonate explosives in the crowded crowd outside the airport.
Speaking of this threat, the Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said: “We have received military-level information from the United States and other countries, indicating that there is a threat of suicide attacks against the masses.” Near Kabul Airport.
Senior US officials said the warning issued by the embassy on Wednesday was related to specific threats involving the Islamic State group and potential car bombs. These officials requested anonymity because they do not have the right to discuss ongoing military operations.
The Islamic State’s affiliates in Afghanistan originated from dissatisfied members of the Taliban, who hold a more extreme view of Islam. The extremists, named after Khorasan, launched a series of brutal attacks in Afghanistan, including an attack on a maternity hospital in Kabul in 2020, which killed babies and women.
The Taliban have fought against Islamic State militants in Afghanistan. However, their advance across the country likely saw IS fighters freed alongside the Taliban’s own. There are particular concerns that extremists may have seized heavy weapons and equipment abandoned by Afghan troops who fled the Taliban advance.
Amid the warnings and the pending American withdrawal, some European nations said they would have to end their evacuations. French Prime Minister Jean Castex told RTL radio said his country’s efforts would end Friday evening due to the U.S. pullout. Danish Defense Minister Trine Bramsen bluntly warned: “It is no longer safe to fly in or out of Kabul.”
Denmark’s last flight has already departed, and Poland and Belgium have also announced the end of their evacuations. The Dutch government said it had been told by the U.S. to leave Thursday.
The Taliban have said they’ll allow Afghans to leave via commercial flights after the deadline next week, but it remains unclear which airlines would return to an airport controlled by the militants. Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said talks were underway between his country and the Taliban about allowing Turkish civilian experts to help run the facility.
The Taliban have promised to return Afghanistan to security and pledged they won’t seek revenge on those who opposed them or roll back progress on human rights. But many Afghans are skeptical.
Fueling fears of what Taliban rule might hold, a journalist from private broadcaster Tolo News described being beaten by Taliban. Ziar Yad said the fighters also beat his colleague and confiscated their cameras, technical equipment and a mobile phone as they tried to report on poverty in Kabul.
“The issue has been shared with Taliban leaders; however, the perpetrators have not yet been arrested, which is a serious threat to freedom of expression,” Yad wrote on Twitter.