A suicide bomb attack outside the Abbey Gate at Kabul’s airport in Afghanistan Thursday killed four U.S. Marines and injured three others, U.S. officials told Fox News, as the Pentagon confirmed there was also a second blast at a nearby hotel where Americans had previously sheltered.
A U.S. official said the terror attack set off a firefight at Abbey Gate, where last night there were 5,000 Afghans and potentially some Americans seeking access to the airport to flee.
The Pentagon confirmed the initial explosion as well as a second explosion at the Baron Hotel, where Americans have gathered in the past for rescue and evacuation. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday had said that up to 1,500 Americans may still be in the country.
The Pentagon later said “a number of U.S. service members were killed in today’s complex attack at Kabul airport.””A number of others are being treated for wounds,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement. “We also know that a number of Afghans fell victim to this heinous attack.”
It was not clear the extent of the injuries suffered by the troops, and how many others were hurt in the large crowds that regularly gathered at the airport seeking to flee the Taliban.
The Taliban had moved quickly through the country ahead of the planned U.S. withdrawal at the end of the month, catching the U.S. off guard and leading to chaotic scenes at Kabul airport and a mass evacuation effort. As of Wednesday, 82,300 people had been flown out, including 4,500 U.S. citizens.
There are currently 5,200 U.S. troops at the airport and thousands of Afghan evacuees still on the tarmac waiting to be evacuated. U.S. planes have been leaving every 40 minutes out of the airport.
A source briefed on the situation told Fox News that there are hundreds of Islamic States fighters in the vicinity and warned that attacks are “likely to continue.”
“Taliban has essentially completely stopped letting Afghans through,” the source said, adding that they are “mostly” letting Americans through, but many are staying away due to the ISIS threat.
“Military continues to retrograde and depart airport. Almost a certainty that Americans will be left behind,” the source said. “They will have to be extracted after-the-fact through either Taliban negotiation or unconventional means.”
President Biden had faced significant pressure, both at home and from international allies, to delay the withdrawal date, but has so far pledged to stick to that timeline. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., urged the administration to reestablish a presence at Bagram airport and continue the evacuation there.
“I urge the Biden Administration to reestablish our presence in Bagram as an alternative to the Kabul airport so that we do not leave our fellow citizens and thousands of Afghan allies behind,” he tweeted. “It is not a capability problem, but a problem of will.”
The bombing comes hours after the State Department warned Americans outside the gates of the Kabul airport to “leave immediately” due to the increasing terrorist threat. Blinken had said Wednesday there was a “very real possibility” of an attack.
In an alert on Thursday, the State Department confirmed a large explosion and reports of gunfire and said: “U.S. citizens should avoid traveling to the airport and avoid airport gates at this time.”
“U.S. citizens who are at the Abbey Gate, East Gate or North Gate now should leave immediately,” the bulletin said.
A White House official told Fox News that President Biden has been briefed on the explosion. Biden had been scheduled to meet with his national security team Thursday morning. Vice President Harris has also been briefed on the situation.
Fox News’ Chad Pergram and Jacqui Heinrich contributed to this report.