The death toll from an ISIS suicide bombing in the Afghan capital of Kabul has risen to 170, according to officials. The attack on a busy street near the US embassy was one of the deadliest for years in Afghanistan’s capital.
Evacuation flights began at Kabul’s airport on Friday, less than a day after a suicide bombing claimed by the ISIS branch in Afghanistan killed 13 American military personnel and dozens of Afghans. Military sources warned that additional assaults might be launched against the airport, and that the danger of them rising amid the scramble to evacuate hundreds of Americans and as many vulnerable Afghans as possible.
On Friday morning, an Afghan health ministry official informed CBS News that the dead toll from the bomber assault had risen to at least 170 people, with the overwhelming majority of those killed being Afghans. Ten of the thirteen American military personnel killed were Marines. On Friday, the US Navy revealed that one of the Americans slain was a sailor. It was the bloodiest day in a decade for US troops in Afghanistan. During the assault, at least 18 additional US soldiers were wounded.
In a speech to the country on Thursday, President Biden promised that the perpetrators of the assault would not be forgiven or forgotten. His senior military commander in the area vowed that US troops were already trying to hunt down the ISIS bombers and that the US will avenge themselves.
The Pentagon confirmed on Friday that just one suicide bomber was involved. There had been speculation that there were two.
35:30 Special Report: Biden on the Kabul Attacks
According to CBS News reporter Charlie D’Agata, the bomber hit late in the afternoon near a crowded airport entry, and Afghanistan was preparing for further bloodshed on Friday.
The nation, as well as the US military, were on high alert. Even as they grieved with their tragic losses, American troops remained focused on their goal to evacuate as many civilians as possible in the days ahead.
Despite considerable pressure from US lawmakers of all colors and America’s friends, President Biden has been insistent that his August 31 timetable for withdrawing all US troops from Afghanistan should not be changed.
After being halted the day before by the assault, evacuations began again on Friday. And, despite the danger of fresh ISIS assaults and warnings from the country’s new Taliban authorities, desperate individuals continued to congregate outside the airport in the hopes of catching a flight out.
However, just a lone Taliban warrior stood amid the blood-stained items scattered over the ground at the airport’s Abbey Gate, the site of yesterday’s explosion. Following the explosion, panicked individuals fled in all directions, with reports that additional suicide bombers were on the loose. Images of the immediate aftermath, which showed heaps of bleeding corpses in a sewage drainage ditch, immediately revealed the suicide bomber’s terrible toll.
Afghans lay on hospital beds in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 26, 2023, after being injured in the devastating assaults outside the airport. Khwaja Tawfiq Sediqi/Associated Press
In Kabul’s hospitals, overworked and underequipped medical personnel fought to rescue lives. When the Taliban seized control of the capital city, many frightened employees left.
While the United States and the United Kingdom continued to transport people out on Friday, most European countries had previously planned to stop their flights today.
The assault was anticipated by intelligence from the US and its partners, and warnings were sent hours before the strike.
“In broad terms, we always anticipated there would be a danger that escalated as we went,” UK Defense Minister Ben Wallace said. “Of course, ISIS was the main suspect, as it is probably the most brutal, the most despicable when it comes to its kind of assaults, but also the one that doesn’t really have any respect for life.”
ISIS claimed credit for the assault on Thursday, publishing a photo of a suspected suicide bomber online.
For many, the mass evacuation attempt had transformed into a mass burial by Friday morning. Relatives flocked to nearby hospitals to claim their loved ones’ corpses.
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The airport remains a target for assailants. General Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of the United States Central Command, said on Thursday that intelligence has uncovered additional “very serious” terrorist threats, including preparations for rocket strikes and potentially bigger suicide vehicle or truck bombs.
The danger of terrorism in Kabul is “clearly going to increase the closer we get to leaving,” Wallace said, adding that Britain only has “a matter of hours” to transport people out of the Afghan city aboard evacuation planes.
“As we depart, some organizations like ISIS will try to make a claim that they have pushed out the United States or the United Kingdom,” Wallace warned.
Despite the bombs disrupting flights, the US was able to assist in the evacuation of about 12,500 individuals in the 24 hours leading up to early Friday morning, aboard 35 US military aircraft and 54 coalition flights. According to the White House, the US has evacuated or assisted in the evacuation of roughly 105,000 individuals since August 14.