AFGHANISTAN’S international airport in Kabul has been rocked by a large explosion thought to be the handiwork of Islamic terrorists sympathetic to the Taliban and opposed to the policy of letting those at odds with its strict Sharia law leave the country.
On Sunday August 15, the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan after taking Kabul without even firing a shot as President Ashraf Ghani fled and his forces surrendered without even firing a shot. Within days, the Taliban established itself as the rulers of Afghanistan and as a result, everyone who supported the regime of President Ghani has tried to flee the country.
Known as the Hamid Karzai International Airport, the main gateway to the outside world in Kabul has been under the control of US troops. They have established a perimeter around the airport and are busy evacuating foreigners, those who served the last government and anyone considered to be at risk of being killed by the Taliban.
Earlier this week, Western nations had warned of an imminent terror threat from the regional chapter of the Islamic State jihadist group. It was feared that they would attack the airport now seen as the last bastion of opposition to Islamic rule in Afghanistan and it now appears that this threat has been realised.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said: “We can confirm an explosion outside Kabul airport. Casualties are unclear at this time but we will provide additional details when we can.”
Washington and its allies had raised the alarm with a series of advisories warning their citizens to avoid the airport. Belgium Prime Minister Alexander De Croo referred to a threat from suicide bombers, while London also issued a warning to its citizens, saying that if they can leave Afghanistan safely by other means, they should do so immediately.
More than 95,000 Afghans and foreigners have fled Afghanistan via the US-led airlift since the Taliban movement took control of the country on August 15. Huge crowds continued to throng the airport ahead of the August 31 deadline set by President Joe Biden to end evacuations and withdraw troops.
President Biden and his aides have not budged on the hard deadline even as some foreign nations warned they would be forced to leave at-risk Afghans behind. Already, several Western allies have already wrapped up their airlift operations including Canada, whose government said it was truly heartbreaking to leave behind those who wanted to be rescued.
In recent years, the Islamic State’s Afghanistan-Pakistan chapter has been responsible for some of the deadliest attacks in the region. It has massacred civilians at mosques, shrines, public squares and even hospitals, targeting Muslims from sects it considers heretical, including Shiites.
But while Islamic State and the Taliban are both hardline Sunni Islamist militants, they are rivals and oppose each other and it is believed Islamic State are not happy with the soft stance of the Taliban. Since assuming power, the Taliban have promised a softer brand of rule from their first stint, which ended in 2001 but many Afghans fear a repeat of their sharia law, as well as violent retributions for those who supported the previous US-backed government.