The United States warned of a “specific, credible threat” near Kabul airport on Sunday as its forces rush to complete evacuations from Afghanistan by an August 31 deadline and the Taliban prepare to take charge of the key airfield.
In a security alert, the US Embassy in Kabul warned of an attack in specific areas of Kabul airport, including its access gates, as US President Joe Biden told reporters in Washington, DC, his commanders informed him another “attack is highly likely in the next 24-36 hours”.
Scores of Afghan civilians and 13 US soldiers were killed on Thursday when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives at Kabul airport. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State in Khorasan Province, ISKP (ISIS-K).
A Western security official said US forces are in the final phase of their operations with about 1,000 civilians in the airport waiting to be evacuated.
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“We’re told that an ISIL attack is ‘highly likely’,” Bellis said.
“I’ve heard that now from a number of people saying definitely do not go to the airport today,” she added.
The Taliban is particularly concerned about the south entrance of the airport, which is the main entrance protected by the armed group, as well as the northwestern corner of the airport, Bellis said.
“The Taliban said they were incredibly worried about this ISIL threat. They had pushed people back, they had put barbed wire across the road to try and stop anybody getting close and trying to disperse the crowds.”
‘My heart will be bleeding’: Afghan student trying to evacuate
Al Jazeera spoke to people who are trying to evacuate the country, some of whom are students from the American University in Afghanistan.
They said they expect to go to Qatar, where they will become some of the almost 60,000 Afghans who have been processed outside of America, waiting for their visas, Al Jazeera’s Charlotte Bellis said.
Many say it was an incredibly hard decision to leave.
“My heart will be bleeding, because I have left my family,” a student who had been attempting to evacuate, said.
“I haven’t even said goodbye to my mum, she’s somewhere else. Because of the threats, I couldn’t live in my home for the past few days,” he added. “I was relocating from one home to another to not be detected, so I haven’t said goodbye to my loved ones.”
‘Far fewer flights’ to and from Kabul airport
There are “far fewer flights” coming or going from Kabul airport, according to Al Jazeera’s Charlotte Bellis, who is reporting from Kabul.
“This morning … there isn’t even a single US plane on the ground at Kabul airport, and there have been far fewer in the air than there were even yesterday,” Bellis said, adding that people are “still attempting” to evacuate.
She added that hundreds of people were trying to get on buses this morning in what has become the latest “strategy” for attempting to evacuate.
This is to try and “streamline” people through the airport so that they’re not lingering outside for too long, and it is in coordination with the Taliban.