Boris Johnson orders emergency meeting after Kabul airport attack

LONDON — The U.K. prime minister ordered a meeting of the government’s emergency committee after two bombs exploded at Kabul airport amid efforts to evacuate Afghans, resulting in an unconfirmed number of casualties.

The first explosion hit the Baron Hotel, used by British military and diplomatic personnel to process Afghans seeking to enter the U.K., and was accompanied by small arms fire. However, there were no British military or civilian casualties, according to the U.K.’s Ministry of Defence.

Another bomb went off near Abbey Gate outside the airport, where U.S. troops were injured. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said: “We can confirm that the explosion at the Abbey Gate was the result of a complex attack that resulted in a number of US and civilian casualties.”

Boris Johnson has been updated on the situation and will chair a meeting of the COBRA emergency committee later this afternoon, a Downing Street spokesperson said.

The U.K.’s Ministry of Defence tweeted: “We are working urgently to establish what has happened in Kabul and its impact on the ongoing evacuation effort. Our primary concern remains the safety of our personnel, British citizens and the citizens of Afghanistan. We are in close contact with our US and other NATO allies at an operational level on the immediate response to this incident.”

Earlier, Johnson told reporters the “overwhelming majority” of eligible people had now been evacuated from Afghanistan by the U.K.

He specified that about 15,000 people had been flown out of Kabul but stressed that time remaining for evacuation efforts was “quite short.”

French President Emmanuel Macron, speaking on a visit to Dublin after the attack, said France had 20 buses of dual nationals and Afghans stuck outside the airport trying to get out.

Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani tweeted that she was on the phone to an Afghan outside the airport when he heard the explosion. Her contact was, she said, unhurt and “making his way to his safe house where he is in hiding from the Taliban, with his MP mother.”

Several countries issued fresh travel advice on Wednesday night after receiving intelligence about possible terrorism, with the U.K.’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office warning of “an ongoing and high threat of terrorist attack.” 

The notice instructed people to stay away from Kabul airport and urged them to find “a safe location and await further advice.”

An ISIS militant wearing a suicide vest was responsible for the first bombing, two U.S. officials and a person familiar with the situation told POLITICO, detonating around 5 p.m. local time just outside Abbey Gate. Three sources said the U.S. troops returned fire soon after.

NATO troops have been ordered to leave the airport gates immediately, two people said.

The blasts came as Western forces scrambled to evacuate thousands of people before the deadline for troops to depart.

Armed forces minister James Heappey told LBC earlier: “We won’t get everybody out. There will be people on your TV screens on the weekend who have been left behind.”

Clea Caulcutt contributed reporting.



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