Two U.S. officials said that the first bombing was carried out by an ISIS militant in a suicide vest. A person who knew the situation and another U.S official told POLITICO. The blast occurred just outside Abbey Gate at 5 p.m. Three sources claimed that the U.S. troops responded quickly to the attack.
Two people confirmed that NATO troops were ordered to immediately leave the airport gates.
This news comes hours after officials warned of an increase in terrorist threats from the Islamic States branch based in Afghanistan. POLITICO reported that defense officials briefed lawmakers Tuesday on the threat to airport gates and military commercial planes evacuating Kabul residents.
Rep. Michael Waltz (R.Fla.), a former soldier in Afghanistan, said today to reporters that lawmakers were briefing them on the threat during a classified Wednesday session. He said that it was a credible threat.
Wednesday night local time in Washington, D.C., saw the U.S. Embassy at Kabul issue an alert warning Americans not to go into the area due to security threats beyond the airport gates.
Kirby confirmed the explosion less than an hour earlier and said that the evacuation was still continuing. He also stated that he would continue to relocate as many people as possible until the end.
The White House reported that 95,700 people had been evacuated from Kabul since Aug. 14, when the operation started. This includes 13,400 in the 24 hours just before Thursday morning.
Stacia George, Director of the Carter Centers Conflict Resolution Program who worked tirelessly to help Afghans fleeing violence, described this attack as a nightmare. To get to the gates that provide safety, it took courage and strength. Even though this is happening, people will continue to try to return once again if the gates are opened again.
Prior to the Taliban's takeover, Afghan security forces had established a "ring of steel" around the capital. This included multiple checkpoints along major roads, and an intelligence system that tracks extremists led by the U.S. Over the years there have been many ISIS and Taliban attacks on Kabul. But that system is gone now, and the city is open to attack.
The attack has not been claimed by any individual or group. However, President Joe Biden warned this week that ISIS was planning to attack the airport. According to U.S. intelligence sources, some details of the intelligence were provided to POLITICO by officials familiar with it. These included ISIS' plans to launch shoulder-fired rockets and a vehicle-borne improvised explosion device.
A U.S. official stated that ISIS had moved fighters and bomb-making materials from Kunar and Nangarhar provinces to the area around the airport. The U.S. official said that IED attacks to penetrate the outer perimeter wall at the airport could occur within six hours on Thursday morning. The official stated that ISIS fighters would then shoot into the crowd using machine guns and rocket-propelled bombs in the hope of reaching the airport's processing centers.
Zabihullah mujahid, the Taliban spokesperson, denied an imminent attack on the airport, telling The Associated Press: This is not correct.