Two explosions in Kabul on Thursday have killed 12 members of the U.S. military, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie told reporters Thursday.
At an official update Thursday afternoon, the commander of U.S. Central Command said 15 other soldiers were injured in the attack. The troops killed were the first to die in action in Afghanistan in 18 months.
Meanwhile, Global Affairs Canada says it has no reports of Canadians being harmed by the twin blasts near the international airport.
At least 60 Afghans were killed and more than 140 were injured, Afghan officials told The Associated Press.
Of the American personnel killed, U.S. officials confirmed that 11 Marines and one navy medic were among the casualties. McKenzie said that the attacks would not be stopping the U.S. from their current evacuation efforts, and that flights would be continuing.
Shortly after the general’s briefing, the Islamic State claimed they were behind the suicide bombings, according to multiple reports.
The group, which claimed responsibility, on its Amaq news channel, said that a bomber “managed to reach a large gathering of translators and collaborators with the American army at ‘Baran Camp’ near Kabul airport and detonated his explosive belt among them, killing about 60 people and wounding more than 100 others, including Taliban fighters,” according to Reuters.
Speaking at a press briefing Thursday afternoon, U.S. President Joe Biden vowed to hunt down the attackers and has asked Pentagon officials to make plans to strike back.
“We will not forgive, we will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay,” said Biden in a voice wracked by emotion and distress.
“We will respond with force and precision at our time, at the place we choose and the moment of our choosing.”
Responding to a question on whether U.S. officials provided the Taliban with details of American citizens and Afghan officials being evacuated, Biden said that “it could have very well have happened.”
The president said that there have been occasions where the U.S. military contacted their counterparts in the Taliban to allow certain people through checkpoints in order to ensure evacuation.
News of a list that included the names of American citizens and Afghan allies being handed over to the Taliban was first reported by POLITICO on Thursday, sparking outrage.
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In a statement provided to Global News, Global Affairs Canada spokesperson John Babcock said Canada “strongly condemns these terrorist attacks on innocent people.”
“We are aware of reports of explosions at Kabul Airport and the surrounding area. Our thoughts are with all of those affected by this horrible act,” he wrote.
“We are closely monitoring the situation and are actively seeking to determine reports of casualties.”
In a tweet, Canadian Armed Forces said all of its members are safe and accounted for.
Reports of chaos emerged in Kabul Thursday after “at least” two explosions confirmed by the Pentagon that officials say led to an unknown number of casualties.
Russian officials pegged the casualty count at 13 dead, 15 injured, after the explosions near the Kabul airport. But those numbers are unconfirmed and expected to fluctuate.
A U.S. official told The Associated Press the complex attack was “definitely believed” to have been carried out by the Islamic State group, whose affiliate in Afghanistan grew out of disaffected Taliban members who hold an even more extreme view of Islam.
On Thursday, Canadian officials confirmed the country’s evacuation efforts in Afghanistan are over. Some Canadians were left behind. Roughly 3,700 people were evacuated by Canada during its operation, though that number will be confirmed in the later days, Gen. Wayne Eyre said.
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Adam Khan, an Afghan waiting nearby, told The Associated Press that one explosion went off in a crowd of people waiting to enter the airport. He said several people appeared to have been killed or injured, including some who were maimed.
Western officials had warned of a major attack, urging people to leave the airport. But Afghans desperate to escape the country continued to flock to the airport.
With her two-year-old daughter in her arms, 27-year-old Afghan Nadia Sadat was trying to get into the airport Thursday alongside her husband before the explosions hit. He had worked with coalition forces during the war.
“We have to find a way to evacuate because our lives are in danger,” Sadat told The Associated Press. “My husband received several threatening messages from unknown sources. We have no chance except escaping.”
In a briefing Thursday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that it was not going to be possible to evacuate every Afghan who wanted to leave before the U.S. military withdrawal on Aug. 31.
Psaki clarified, however, that there was no end date to evacuate any U.S. citizen who wanted to leave the country, even after the withdrawal of troops.
Since the Taliban took control of the capital, and country, on Aug. 15, the airport has been chaotic with thousands of Afghans trying to flee in fear a return to the militants’ brutal rule.
When they last reigned between 1996 and 2001, the Islamist group cut off the hands of thieves, stoned adulterers and banned women from attending school or working outside the home, among other things.
But they’re promising now to be a more moderate ruler, and vowed “amnesty” to Afghans who worked with Western forces during the U.S.-led War on Terror, and claimed to want women in government.
Many Afghans are skeptical of their promises as the Taliban have shown to crack down on dissidents.
Commenting on Thursday’s bombings, Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen tweeted the blasts happened in an area where “U.S. forces are responsible for security.”
“The Islamic Emirate is paying close attention to the security and protection of its people, and evil circles will be strictly stopped.”
Just before the Taliban took Kabul, the United States and its allies began one of the biggest air evacuations in history, bringing out about 95,700 people, including 13,400 on Wednesday, the White House said on Thursday.
— with files from The Associated Press and Reuters