Afghans told to leave Kabul airport over ‘very credible’ Islamic State threat

Afghans told to leave Kabul airport over ‘very credible’ Islamic State threat

The United States and allies urged people to move away from Kabul airport on Thursday due to the threat of a terror attack by Islamic State (IS) militants as Western troops hurry to evacuate as many people as possible before an Aug. 31 deadline.

Pressure to complete the evacuations of thousands of foreigners and Afghans who helped Western countries during the 20-year war against the Taliban has intensified, with all U.S. and allied troops due to leave the airport next week.

In an alert issued on Wednesday evening, the U.S. embassy in Kabul advised citizens to avoid travelling to the airport and said those already at the gates should leave immediately, citing unspecified “security threats”.

In a similar advisory, Britain told people in the airport area to move away and its armed forces minister, James Heappey, said intelligence of a possible suicide bomb attack by IS militants had become “much firmer”.

“I can’t stress the desperation of the situation enough. The threat is credible, it is imminent, it is lethal. We wouldn’t be saying this if we weren’t genuinely concerned about offering Islamic State a target that is just unimaginable,” Heappey told BBC radio.

Australia also issued a warning for people to stay away from the airport while Belgium ended its evacuation operations because of the danger of attack. The Dutch government also issued a warning and said it expected to carry out its last evacuation flight on Thursday, leaving behind some who are eligible to travel to the Netherlands.

A Western diplomat in Kabul said areas outside the airport gates were “incredibly crowded” again despite the warnings.

The Taliban, whose fighters are guarding the perimeter outside the airport, are enemies of the Afghan affiliate of Islamic State, known as Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K), after an old name for the region.

“Our guards are also risking their lives at Kabul airport, they face a threat too from the Islamic State group,” said a Taliban official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The warnings came against a chaotic backdrop in the capital, Kabul, and its airport, where a massive airlift of foreign nationals and their families as well as some Afghans has been underway since the Taliban captured the city on Aug. 15.

While Western troops in the airport worked feverishly to move the evacuation as fast as possible, thousands of people still thronged outside, trying to flee rather than stay in a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

Ahmedullah Rafiqzai, a civil aviation official at the airport, said people continued to crowd around the gates despite the attack warnings.

“People don’t want to move, it’s their determination to leave this country that they are not scared to even die,” he told Reuters.

Source: Reuters

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