Twin blasts hit Kabul on Thursday, 26 August, the Pentagon confirmed, with one blast outside the airport at the Abbey Gate and one at or near the Baron Hotel, a short distance away.
Speaking to Reuters, the Taliban said that it was a suspected suicide bomb that exploded, which left somewhere between 13 to 20 people dead, including children.
According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, at least four US marines lost their lives in the blasts, while an official statement from the Press Secretary for the United States Department of Defence John Kirby said that 'a number of US service people' were killed due to the explosions.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid also confirmed that 52 people had been injured in the twin blasts near the airport, according to TOLO News.
Al Jazeera reported that Kabul's Emergency Hospital said that at least 60 people had been wounded, while six people had been pronounced dead on arrival.
Meanwhile, AFP reported that five people had been killed and a dozen had been left wounded in the blast, while AP reported that the Russian Foreign Ministry had provided an official casualty count, pegging the death toll at 13 and adding that 15 had been wounded.
Meanwhile, Kirby said that the Pentagon could confirm that the explosion at the Abbey gate was the "result of a complex attack that resulted in a number of US and civilian casualties".
AFP quoted an eyewitness saying that there was total panic when people heard the explosion.
"The Taliban then started firing in the air to disperse the crowd at the gate," the witness said, adding that they saw a man rushing with an injured baby in his hands.
The blast came amid a warning by Western nations of an imminent terror threat, even as thousands gathered hoping to flee Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
US Official Says IS Behind Attack
AP quoted a US official who claimed that the explosion is “definitely believed” to have been carried out by the Islamic State group.
Reacting to the blast, the US Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs said that there are reports of gunfire and asked US citizens to avoid traveling to the airport and airport gates at this time.
"US citizens who are at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately," the advisory further said.
The White House said that US President Joe Biden had been briefed about the explosion, while UK's Downing Street said that the government would hold a crisis meeting in light of the blast.
UK PM Boris Johnson has said that the UK would continue their evacuation operation despite the attack, reported AFP.
Intelligence About Imminent Attack
As per news agency AFP, US and allied officials have claimed that they had intelligence that suicide bombers were threatening to attack the airport.
Earlier, on Thursday, the US State Department issued a warning to US citizens present at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate of the Kabul airport to "immediately" leave those areas over a terrorist threat.
A security alert from the US Embassy in Kabul said, “Because of security threats outside the gates of Kabul airport, we are advising US citizens to avoid traveling to the airport and to avoid airport gates at this time unless you receive individual instructions from a US govt representative to do so,” news agency ANI reported.
'Heinous Attack': Merkel, Leyen Condemn Blasts
Prominent political leaders, including the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen condemned the fatal attack.
Merkel condemned the "heinous" attack saying, "we don't know all the details yet but the terrorists targeted people waiting at the airport gates who were hoping to leave."
"They wanted security and freedom and that is why it is an absolutely heinous attack in a very, very tense situation," she added, AFP quoted.
Referring to the attack as 'inhuman' and 'cowardly', Leyen wrote "the international community must work closely together to avoid a resurgence of terrorism in Afghanistan and beyond."
Meanwhile, the Taliban in a statement also condemned the bombings, and said that it happened in area controlled by US forces, according to Bloomberg.
The Crisis in Afghanistan
The US has reportedly been making efforts to evacuate Americans and its Afghan partners from the country since the Taliban took over the capital city Kabul on 15 August.
Since Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, a horrific stream of chaotic – and even terrifying – visuals have emerged from the Kabul airport, as hoards of people struggle to get on flights and out of the country.
Though the Taliban has agreed to continue to allow Afghans to leave the country after the US withdrawal deadline of 31 August, reported AFP, Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen had said that the militant organisation will not allow the US to extend their 31 August deadline for ending their mission in Afghanistan or “there will be consequences”.
(With inputs from AFP, AP, TOLO News and Reuters)