Kabul airport attack: the story of “carnage” with international consequences

For two days, Kabul has buried its dead. And, in the general chaos, tries to treat the wounded of the suicide attack perpetrated Thursday, August 26 at the gates of its airport. Less than 48 hours after the attack, the death toll continues to grow: at least 170 Afghans were killed in the explosion, as well as thirteen American soldiers, according to the latest count of the New York Times. More than 200 people are also said to be injured, victims of the violence of the strike. Back on a bloody attack, denounced unanimously by the international community.

“An attack specifically designed to cause carnage”

It is around 6 p.m. this Thursday, August 26, when a huge explosion shakes the area around the international airport in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. A suicide bomber has just unleashed his explosive belt in the crowd massed for hours in front of the Abbey Gate access gate, guarded by American soldiers. Hoping to board a flight abroad, thousands of civilians waited patiently for their turn to enter the complex. The tension is palpable: US President Joe Biden has set August 31 as the end of the gigantic airlift until then organized by the West to evacuate their nationals and thousands of Afghan civilians, frightened by the sudden takeover of power by the Taliban in mid-August.

The attack is violent. Thrown into the dirty water of a sewer canal, dozens of victims will not get up. In the aftermath of the explosion, “direct fire” from “an enemy position that has not been pinpointed” by the US government targets surviving civilians. “The attacks were clearly calculated to kill and maim as many people as possible: civilians, children, fathers, mothers, as well as the Taliban and foreign forces protecting the airport”, Rupert Colville will analyze the next day, spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. “It was an attack specifically designed to cause carnage, and it caused carnage.” “The injured could not speak, many were terrified, their eyes lost in the void,” testifies on Twitter Alberto Zanin, medical coordinator of the structure – already 80% full before the attacks.

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Panicked by the Taliban’s seizure of power in the territory, the departure candidates had ignored Western warnings issued since the day before, citing credible threats of suicide attacks around the complex. “When people heard the explosion, it was total panic,” recalls an Afghan, who came to try his luck to leave the country. According to him, the attack would also have taken by surprise the Taliban guards who kept watch around the airport. “They then fired in the air to disperse the people who were waiting in front of the door,” adds the man after having watched helplessly scenes of chaos. “I saw a man running with an injured baby in his arms,” ​​he told AFP. “There are a lot of dead and injured,” says Milad, who came with his wife and three children to try to start a new life in the United States. “I never, ever want to go to the airport. Death to America, its evacuation and its visas,” he told AFP, disgusted.

“We will chase you and we will make you pay”

In the evening, the attack was quickly claimed by the jihadist group Islamic State of Khorasan, one of the branches of Daesh. And while the Pentagon had initially reported two explosions, US General Hank Taylor said Friday that the attack was ultimately perpetrated by a single perpetrator. “We don’t think there was a second explosion at the Hotel Baron or near the hotel,” he said, silencing rumors about a second explosion. At this time, the US government is unable to specify the total number of attackers, nor to indicate the circumstances in which thirteen US soldiers were killed. “An investigation is underway,” said Defense Department spokesman John Kirby.

US President Joe Biden, for his part, immediately condemns the attack. “We will hunt you down and we will make you pay,” he said on Thursday evening to the perpetrators of the attack. “We will respond with force and precision when we decide, where and when we choose,” he adds from the White House. Promise kept. This Saturday morning, the United States carried out a drone strike against an IS target in Afghanistan, just as the airlift entered a final phase of extreme tension, under persistent risk of new attacks.

“The unmanned airstrike occurred in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan. Early indications are that we killed the target,” Bill Urban, from the central command, said in a statement, noting that he was not aware of “d ‘no other civilian casualties “. But according to Washington, the risk of further attacks persists. “We believe that there is always […] specific and credible threats “, warns John Kirby, while the press secretary of the president, Jen Psaki, estimated Friday another attack” probable “. The next days will be” the most dangerous period to date “, a she added.

In this context, the United States Embassy in Kabul asked its nationals, as of Thursday evening, to leave “immediately” the vicinity of the airport. “Due to security threats at Kabul airport, we continue to advise US citizens to avoid going to the airport and to avoid the airport gates,” the embassy recalled.

More than 109,000 evacuations since mid-August

At the same time, a real pass of arms of communication between the Taliban and the Americans increases the tensions – already very strong – around the complex. The new leaders of the country “do not take care of any of the boarding gates or any of the operations at the airport. It is still under the control of the US military,” said John Kirby on Friday, while the Taliban had announced earlier today that it had taken control of several parts of the structure. “Today, three important places of the military part of the Kabul airport were evacuated by the Americans and are under the control of the Islamic Emirate”, had tweeted one of the spokesman of the Taliban, Bilal Karimi. .

On Friday, the situation remained rather calm around the airport, where Western chartered flights resumed. According to US General Hank Taylot, around 5,400 people were still taking refuge in the compound, waiting to board a plane, while more than 109,000 people have been evacuated since August 14. Friday evening, France ended its airlift, after repatriating “nearly 3,000 people, including more than 2,600 Afghans,” said Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly.

Switzerland, Italy, Spain and Sweden also announced on Friday evening that they had completed their evacuation flights, like Germany, the Netherlands, Canada or Australia before them. British side, the exfiltrations know their “last hours”, estimated the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, specifying that London will move “heaven and earth” “to help out” the Afghans eligible for asylum.

Kabul’s medical supplies run out

In the meantime, the World Health Organization (WHO) is closely monitoring the situation in Kabul. The organization announced Friday that supplies of medical supplies will be exhausted within days in Afghanistan, where it hopes to deliver aid through Mazar-i-Sharif airport. In the aftermath of the attacks, the director of the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Health Emergency Management Program, Rick Brennan, indicated that the organization’s two priorities were to ensure the safety of humanitarian personnel and the continuity of services. essential health, especially for the most vulnerable.

“The good news is that of the approximately 2,200 health facilities [que l’OMS] monitors, 97% remain open and work “, detailed Rick Brennan. On the other hand, the medical equipment” is running out quickly “and” the WHO is not able to meet “the needs. – speech of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Rupert Colville demanded that those responsible for the attack “be caught and brought to justice as soon as possible”.

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“Daesh remains a threat”

The arrival of the Taliban to power in Afghanistan and the “threat” that the Islamic State group continues to represent will in any case be the subject of all concerns at the regional conference which opens this Saturday in Baghdad, in the presence in particular of ‘Emmanuel Macron. “We all know that we must not let our guard down, because Daesh remains a threat”, declared the French president after a meeting with the Iraqi Prime Minister, Moustafa al-Kazimi, in prelude to this meeting you, which are also expected the Iranian and Saudi foreign ministers and the king of Jordan Abdullah II.



Christophe Donner


Frédéric Filloux is a columnist for L'Express and editor of the Monday Note.Frederic Filloux


Paris, December 14, 2019, portrait of François Bazin.Francois Bazin


Sylvain Fort.By Sylvain Fort

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