By Emily Griffith
An ISIS suicide bomber detonated an explosive vest and device in the middle of a large crowd surrounding Kabul airport on August 26th, as thousands of civilians continue to seek escape on evacuation flights from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
Latest figures (27 August) state that 110 people are confirmed dead, including 13 US soldiers and 28 Taliban members. At least 150 others have been wounded by the blasts, and casualties include high numbers of children and women.
This attack is the deadliest incident of explosive violence AOAV has recorded in Afghanistan this year, 2021. It is the fifth highest casualty suicide attack in the country since AOAV’s Explosive Violence Monitor began in 2011.
The attack struck hours after Western governments warned their citizens to stay away from the airport due to an imminent threat of an attack by IS-K, the Afghanistan branch of the Islamic State.
The explosion took place around 6pm local time close to Abbey Gate, one of the main entrances to Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport. Initial reports said there were two suicide bombers at two different locations in the vicinity of the airport. However, senior US military officials have announced they believe there was one suicide bomber at the airport perimeter and no explosion outside the Baron hotel, where British officials were processing Afghans hoping to travel to the UK, as initial reports stated.
In recent weeks, Afghans and foreign nationals have crowded the airport in a desperate attempt to flee the country since the Taliban captured Kabul on August 16th 2021 and gained de facto power over the country. Thousands of Afghans who worked for foreign governments have been airlifted out of the country on NATO evacuation flights, and thousands of eligible Afghans remain waiting, surrounding Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport.
The attack by ISIS-K has complicated the already chaotic evacuation effort and some countries have stopped conducting flights out of the country. Before the blasts, Germany, the Netherlands, and Canada announced they could no longer conduct evacuation flights. The US is in the final stages of it’s evacuation, and the UK is in it’s final hours, having confirmed that they are no longer calling people forward to their airport for evacuation flights.
The Pentagon announced that 111,000 Afghans have been airlifted out of the country during the evacuation, alongside 5,000 Americans. There are still 5,400 people waiting for flights inside Kabul airport, and hundreds more outside the airport seeking escape, unable to enter. US President Joe Biden has announced the date of withdrawal for US troops from Afghanistan remains August 31st 2021.
The UK’s Ministry of Defense said that 13,708 people had been evacuated by the UK, including nearly 8,000 Afghans who worked for the government, and 4,000 British passport holders. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has said that between 800-1,100 Afghans eligible for evacuation to the UK will be left behind, alongside 100-150 Britons – some of whom have elected to stay.
In the last decade, 2011-2020, AOAV has recorded 14,968 civilian casualties of suicide bombings in Afghanistan, accounting for 79% of the total casualties (18,942) of suicide attacks. The number of civilian casualties of explosive violence recorded by AOAV in Afghanistan to date since 2011 now stands at 31,060. Civilians account for 57% of the 54,164 people killed or wounded by explosive weapons in Afghanistan since 2011.