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Jumat, 27 Agustus 2021

Afghan evacuation flights resume as death toll from Kabul airport bombing passes 100 - ABC News

US-led evacuation flights from Afghanistan have resumed with new urgency, a day after two suicide bombings targeted the thousands of desperate people fleeing the Taliban takeover and killed more than 100.

The US says further attempted attacks are expected ahead of the Tuesday deadline for foreign troops to leave, ending America's longest war.

As the call to prayer echoed through Kabul with the whine of departing planes, the anxious crowd outside the airport was as large as ever.

In one location, dozens of Taliban members with heavy weapons about 500 metres from the airport were preventing anyone from venturing forward.

Thursday's bombings near Kabul's international airport killed at least 95 Afghans and 13 US troops, Afghan and US officials said, in the deadliest day for US forces in Afghanistan since August 2011.

An official, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media, said the true toll could be higher because other people may have taken bodies away from the scene.

All Australian defence personnel had left Afghanistan and were not impacted by the blast.

The evacuation mission had been suspended in the aftermath of the explosion, and Australians and visa holders who remain have been told to keep away from Kabul airport.

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Play Video. Duration: 50 seconds
Injured people taken to a hospital in Kabul after twin suicide bombings struck outside the city's airport.

Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K), an affiliate group of the Islamic State group that operates in Afghanistan, claimed responsibility for the attack.

In an emotional speech, President Joe Biden condemned the group, which is far more radical than the Taliban militants who seized power less than two weeks ago.

But despite intense pressure to extend Tuesday's deadline, he has cited the threat of terrorist attacks as a reason to keep to his plan.

The Taliban, back in control of Afghanistan two decades after they were ousted in a US-led invasion following the 9/11 attacks, insist on the deadline.

The Trump administration in February 2020 struck an agreement with the Taliban that called for it to halt attacks on Americans in exchange for the removal of all US troops and contractors by May; Mr Biden announced in April he would have them out by September.

US soldiers stand in front of large crowds at Kabul airport
The US on Thursday said more than 100,000 people have been safely evacuated from Kabul.(

AP: US Marine Corps

)

Attacks prompt more attempts to flee

While the US on Thursday said more than 100,000 people have been safely evacuated from Kabul, as many as 1,000 Americans and tens of thousands more Afghans are struggling to leave in one of history's largest airlifts.

General Frank McKenzie, the US Central Command chief overseeing the evacuation, said about 5,000 people were awaiting flights on the airfield.

Yet more were arriving. Thursday's attacks led Jamshad, who gave just his one name, to come early Friday with his wife and three small children, clutching an invitation to a Western country he didn't want to name.

This was his first attempt to leave, he said: "After the explosion I decided I would try because I am afraid now there will be more attacks and I think now I have to leave."

Ahmadullah Herawi, who was also seeking to flee, said: "Believe me, I think that an explosion will happen any second or minute, God is my witness, but we have lots of challenges in our lives, that is why we take the risk to come here and we overcome fear,"

The scenes at the airport, with people standing knee-deep in sewage and families thrusting documents and even young children toward US troops behind razor wire, have horrified many around the world as far-flung efforts continue to help people escape.

Afghan refugees
Afghans make their way through flooded streets to try their chance at escaping the country.(

MARCUS YAM / LOS ANGELES TIMES

)

But those chances are fading fast for many. Some US allies have said they are ending evacuation efforts, in part to give the US time to wrap up its evacuation work before getting 5,000 of its troops out by Tuesday.

Britain on Friday said its evacuations from Afghanistan would end within hours, and the main British processing centre for eligible Afghans had been closed.

Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told Sky News there would be "eight or nine" evacuation flights on Friday, and they would be the last. British troops will leave over the next few days.

The Spanish government said it had ended its evacuation operation. And the French European affairs minister, Clement Beaune, said on French radio Europe 1 that France would end its evacuation operation "soon" but may seek to extend it until after Friday night.

Untold thousands of Afghans, especially ones who had worked with the US and other Western countries, are now in hiding from the Taliban, fearing retaliation despite the group's offer of full amnesty.

The militant group has claimed it has become more moderate since its harsh rule from 1996 to 2001, when it largely confined women to their homes, banned television and music and held public executions.

But Afghans in Kabul and elsewhere have reported that some Taliban members were barring girls from attending school and going door to door in search of people who had worked with Western forces.

No one knows how effective the Taliban will be at combating the Sunni extremists of IS, who have links to the group's more well-known affiliate in Syria and Iraq and have carried out a series of brutal attacks in Afghanistan, mainly targeting its Shiite Muslim minority.

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Play Video. Duration: 3 minutes 49 seconds
Who are the Islamic State Khorasan?

Wires/ABC

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2021-08-27 10:16:31Z
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