"Apocalypse" at Kabul Airport: When Desperate Expectation Turns to Horror

 

A man injured in the explosion is treated just outside the Kabul hotel. Photo: New York Times
A man injured in the explosion is treated just outside the Kabul hotel. Photo: New York Times

Many American civilians and soldiers were killed and injured after two attacks at the capital Kabul airport, where crowds gathered waiting to be evacuated from Afghanistan on August 26.

Desperate waiting at Kabul airport

Another long and hot afternoon in the capital Kabul is coming to an end. Thousands of foreigners and Afghans, many of them families with young children, surrounded the heavily guarded gates of Hamid Karzai International Airport. They hope to be able to board one of the last flights to leave Afghanistan

Hours earlier, multiple shots had been fired as an Italian military transport plane carrying nearly 100 Afghans left the Hamid Karzai International Airport in the capital Kabul. It was one of hundreds of foreign and private evacuation flights over the past 12 days in Afghanistan.

Security warnings at Kabul airport were unusually specific. "U.S. citizens present at this time at Abbey Gate, East Gate or North Gate of the airport should leave immediately," the State Department said, advising people to only approach the airport area. if you receive specific instructions.”

On the morning of August 26, the British armed forces minister warned of the "imminent" threat of a terrorist attack at Kabul airport. A former British soldier told a mother and her 3- and 5-year-old children to leave the airport quickly. "The crowds at the airport are very excitable," said the former British soldier.

A London driver who waited all night at Kabul airport also decided to leave the area near the Baron hotel at around 3pm on August 26 (local time).

"I was there with my wife and children, but I decided to go home," said the 42-year-old, who asked not to be named, adding that "thousands of people" were still gathered at the Abbey gates when he left.

“Some people have left, but most people have stayed. There are some British passport holders also waiting at the airport," the man said by phone from Kabul.

One British passport holder, who has lived in London for 20 years, said he didn't even go to the airport. “I felt it was very dangerous there. I received an email from the British Embassy telling me not to go to the airport today,” the man said.

The man said he hoped British officials would send a bus to pick him up and his family. “I hope they will provide transportation for us,” he said.

'Doomsday' at Kabul airport

However, for the hundreds of others, still languishing in the area outside the airport, the afternoon of August 26 ended in horror and several people were injured or killed.

On August 26, there were two explosions outside the airport in the capital, Kabul, near where thousands of people were waiting to be evacuated from Afghanistan.

Photos and videos posted on social media showed dozens of injured people lying in ambulances, some in wheelbarrows with bloodied clothes.

Barat, who had arrived at the airport with his cousin to show documents to foreign soldiers, was about 10 meters away from one of the explosions.

“The crowd was packed and people jostled each other. I tripped and that's when the explosion happened. I think four or five soldiers were hit. Bodies are everywhere. People panicked and ran," Barat told the New York Times.

An Afghan interpreter told CBS News that the first explosion was "really bad, a lot of people died". “I saw a little girl injured and I picked her up. I took her to the hospital but she died in my arms. What is happening right now is heartbreaking. The whole country is falling apart,” the man recounted.

Fahim, a witness at the scene, said the Taliban and US soldiers fired into the air to disperse the crowd. "The scene here is completely chaotic," Milad, who was also at the scene of the explosion, told AFP.

Another witness said that in a panic he dropped a document that he hoped would help him board an evacuation flight with his wife and three children. “I never want to go to the airport again,” he said.

Other eyewitnesses said that the Taliban continued to fire their guns into the air to disperse the crowd. The sirens blared incessantly and the loudspeakers ordered everyone to return home. Dozens of people were killed, and people's clothes and suitcases were strewn across the streets.

Paul Farthing, a former British marine who runs an animal rescue camp in Afghanistan, said he and his staff were caught up in the aftermath of the explosion. "Suddenly we heard gunfire and our vehicle was targeted. If our driver hadn't changed direction, he would have been shot in the head by a man with an AK-47." , Paul Farthing told PA Media.

A former British military interpreter, who was near Kabul airport with his wife, a 3-month-old girl and a 3-year-old son, also waited in vain for an evacuation flight. “This is like the end of the world. Injured people are everywhere," he said, adding that fortunately his family was not harmed by the explosion.

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