A suicide bomb has caused a huge explosion outside Kabul airport where US soldiers were stationed with at least 13 casualties including children just hours after warnings of an ‘imminent’ and ‘lethal’ ISIS terror attack.
President Joe Biden has been briefed on the blast which ripped through a crowd of Afghans gathered at the Abbey gate of the Hamid Karzai airport where there were also reports of gunfire amid the mass panic.
Images from the scene show scores of bloodied people being carried away from the bombsite with reports of multiple casualties.
Witnesses told Sky News the suicide bomber had detonated a device in a sewage canal-way packed with people and that there were ‘definitely’ civilian casualties.
He said the passage was overlooked by US soldiers and he had been told that there were casualties among the American troops.
He added: ‘This could be the end of the airlift’
Meanwhile an Afghan man queueing to enter the airport said the explosion hit the middle of a crowd of thousands, and he saw many injured and maimed people and was told of multiple fatalities.
Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby said: ‘We can confirm an explosion outside Kabul airport. Casualties are unclear at this time. We will provide additional details when we can.’
Tory MP Nus Ghani said she was on the phone to somebody outside Kabul airport when the explosion happened, tweeting: ‘Explosion at Kabul airport. I was on the phone to an Afghan outside the airport when he heard the explosion.
‘Praying that he gets away safely and we get his family safe passage out of this nightmare.’
Meanwhile Conservative MP Alicia Kearns, a member of the foreign affairs and national security strategy committees, said: ‘A bomb or attack with gun fire at northern gate of Baron’s hotel. Worried this will devastate evacuation – so many hurt. My heart is with all those injured and killed.’
Earlier, gunfire to disperse the thronging crowds at the airport was initially thought to have targeted a plane transporting 100 civilians to safety.
A source from Italy’s Defence Ministry had said shots were fired at the Italian C-130 plane minutes after take-off but it was not damaged.
But intelligence reports now claim the gunfire was to disperse crowds gathered at the airport and was not directed at the departing plane amid the panic and heightened fears of an ‘imminent’ terror attack.
An Italian journalist told Sky TG 24 that she had been aboard the plane along with 98 Afghan civilians when it appeared to be targeted by machine gun fire.
‘The pilot reacted promptly and implemented manoeuvres to avoid being hit within minutes of taking off from Kabul. There was a bit of panic,’ said the journalist.
Earlier, armed forces minister James Heappey said there was ‘very credible reporting’ of a ‘severe’ attack which could happen ‘within hours’ by ISIS-K, the sworn enemy of the Taliban who want to cause mayhem in the new regime.
The US, Britain and Australia had already told their citizens to flee the airport over the terror threat with Western forces still stationed at the transport hub, with a multiple car-bomb attack feared by officials.
The fears are heaping extra pressure on the operation to evacuate stranded foreigners, with Tuesday’s deadline for foreign troops to leave fast approaching.
Meanwhile Afghans who had been told to stay away from Kabul airport are instead flocking to Pakistan and Iran in a bid to escape after the UK told them to head to the border, while many countries have announced they are ending their airlift operations from today.
Heappey told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘There is now very, very credible reporting of an imminent attack.