Scores of Afghan civilians and at least 13 members of the US military have been killed and many more injured in Kabul suicide bombing attacks claimed by the Daesh terrorist group.
Two explosions rattled the area outside the airport in the Afghan capital on Thursday amid the precarious security situation following the Taliban’s takeover of the country.
Following the attacks, Daesh's Amaq News Agency said on its Telegram channel that the terror group was behind the explosions.
A suicide bomber from Daesh "managed to reach a large gathering of translators and collaborators with the American army at 'Baran Camp' near Kabul Airport and detonated his explosive belt among them," it said.
The attacks killed 12 US Marines and one Navy medic, US officials confirmed, noting 18 other US service members were injured.
"We can confirm that a number of US service members were killed in today's complex attack at Kabul airport," Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement. "A number of others are being treated for wounds. We also know that a number of Afghans fell victim to this heinous attack."
A senior Afghan health official also said 90 Afghan civilians were dead and over 100 others wounded.
Meanwhile, General Kenneth McKenzie, the leader of US Central Command, said that the United States would retaliate against the perpetrators of the attack.
"We believe it is their desire to continue these attacks and we expect those attacks to continue and we're doing everything we can to be prepared for those attacks," McKenzie said, noting, "We will go after them.”
McKenzie also said that immediately after the explosions, gunmen opened fire on service members and civilians.
Kirby said earlier that one of the explosions happened "at the airport's Abbey Gate" and "at least one other explosion happened at or near the Baron Hotel, a short distance from Abbey Gate."
'US military destroys ammo in Kabul'
The sound of a huge third explosion heard in the capital was confirmed by a Taliban spokesman to be due to the US military destroying ammunitions in the city, according to Al Jazeera.
No other details were immediately available at the time of this reporting.
UN chief calls Security Council meeting
Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called a meeting of the permanent members of the Security Council on the situation in Afghanistan, AFP quoted diplomats as saying.
The diplomats said Guterres had sent letters formally inviting the US, Britain, France, Russia and China to meet on Monday.
Earlier, UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said no UN personnel were believed to have been among the causalities, although some staff were reported to be around the airport compound at the time of the explosions.
“This incident underscores the volatility of the situation on the ground in Afghanistan but also strengthens our resolve as we continue to deliver urgent assistance across the country in support of the Afghan people”, Dujarric added.
The attacks come as thousands of people had gathered outside the airport in recent days as the US and other Western countries have been trying to complete a massive evacuation of their citizens and Afghan allies following the Taliban takeover of the country.
More than 80,000 people, foreigners and Afghans, have been evacuated since August 14, the day before the Taliban laid siege to Kabul.
However, the numbers of people evacuated have already started dwindling down. From 3 am ET Wednesday to 3 am ET Thursday, 13,400 people were evacuated from Afghanistan, with nearly 5,100 via US military flights and 8,300 via coalition flights.
Over the 24-hour period from Monday to Tuesday, 21,000 were evacuated and 19,000 between Tuesday and Wednesday.
McKenzie said the evacuation mission was not going to stop as a result of the attacks.
"I think we can continue to conduct our mission, even while we are receiving attacks like this," he said.
Also, there was not immediate indication that US President Joe Biden, who has been briefed on the attacks, plans to change the Aug. 31 withdrawal target, a source familiar with the situation told Reuters.