THE HAGUE, Netherlands — NATO chief has condemned the twin suicide bombings at the Kabul airport as a “horrific terrorist attack” that targeted desperate Afghans trying to leave the country and the alliance’s efforts to evacuate them from Afghanistan.
Jens Stoltenberg said on Twitter after the explosions on Thursday: “I strongly condemn the horrific terrorist attack outside #Kabul airport. My thoughts are with all those affected and their loved ones. Our priority remains to evacuate as many people to safety as quickly as possible.”
The bombings struck outside Kabul’s airport, where large crowds of people trying to flee Afghanistan have massed, killing at least 13 people and wounding 15, according to Russian officials. Western nations had warned earlier in the day of a possible attack at the airport in the waning days of a massive airlift.
MORE ON AFGHANISTAN:
— West warns of possible attack at Kabul airport amid airlift
— ‘Was it worth it?’ A fallen Marine and a war’s crushing end
— Poland, Belgium end Afghan evacuation as clock ticks down
— US says 1,500 Americans may still await Kabul evacuation
— 2 US lawmakers’ Kabul trip prompts questions, criticism
— Immigrant families from San Diego area stuck in Afghanistan
— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/afghanistan
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
LONDON — A former Royal Marine who runs an animal shelter in Afghanistan says he and his staff were caught up in the aftermath of the explosion near the Kabul airport.
Paul “Pen” Farthing said the group was outside the airport when the blast occurred on Thursday.
“We’re fine but everything is chaos here at the moment,” he told Britain’s Press Association news agency. “All of a sudden we heard gunshots and our vehicle was targeted, had our driver not turned around he would have been shot in the head by a man with an AK-47.
“We’ve been in the airport, and back out of the airport; the whole thing’s a mess,” he added.
Farthing is trying to get staff of his Nowzad charity out of Afghanistan, along with the group’s rescued animals. They have been stuck outside Kabul’s airport as they try to get a flight out.
He spoke as reports emerged of two suicide bombings outside the airport that killed at least 13 people and wounded another 15. U.S. officials meanwhile have said that American personnel were wounded in the blast, without elaborating.
DUBLIN — French President Emmanuel Macron said “the situation has seriously deteriorated” near the Kabul airport after “several explosions happened in the last hours.”
Speaking in a news conference during a visit to Dublin, Ireland, Macron said “we are facing an extremely tense situation that makes us coordinate obviously with our American allies and call for the utmost caution in a context we don’t control.”
He added France will seek to protect and evacuate French nationals, people from allied countries and Afghans “as long as the conditions will be met” at the airport.
Macron said he did not have more details about the circumstances of the explosions.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has said there were two suicide bombings outside Kabul airport that killed at least 13 people on Thursday and wounded another 15. U.S. officials meanwhile have said that American personnel were wounded in the blast, without elaborating.
MOSCOW — The Russian ambassador in Afghanistan says 360 Russian citizens have been flown home from Kabul.
Ambassador Dmitry Zhirnov said in televised remarks Thursday that all those Russians who wanted to leave Afghanistan were taken home the previous day aboard four Russian Defense Ministry planes. He said that along with 360 Russians, the planes also evacuated 38 nationals of other ex-Soviet nations.
Zhirnov said that the embassy was now trying to help a few Russians who were unable to leave for logistical reasons. He noted that about 100 Russians who remain in Afghanistan haven’t expressed a desire to leave.
The Russian Foreign Ministry says the flights were organized with the assistance of the Taliban and the United States, which controls Afghanistan’s airspace. The ambassador said that Russian diplomats in Kabul are also working to help about 400 Afghan students who have enrolled Russian universities travel to Russia for studies.
He said the embassy maintains close contacts with the Taliban.
WASHINGTON — The acting U.S. ambassador to Kabul, Ross Wilson, says the security threat at the Kabul airport overnight was “clearly regarded as credible, as imminent, as compelling.”
But in an interview with ABC News on Thursday, he would not give details and did not say whether the threat remained.
Wilson also said there remain “safe ways” for Americans to reach the airport for evacuation. He said “there undoubtedly will be” Afghans who had worked with or for the U.S. in Afghanistan who will not be able to get out before the U.S.-led evacuation ends.
TORONTO — Canada has ended evacuations from Kabul’s airport, a Canadian general said Thursday, as the clock ticks down on dramatic Western efforts to help people flee the Taliban takeover ahead of a full American withdrawal.
General Wayne Eyre, the country’s acting chief of Defense Staff, said all the other countries have to leave the airport before the Americans can wrap up their mission. Canadian military flights evacuated about 3,700 people.
“We stayed in Afghanistan for as long as we could. We were amongst the last to cease evacuation operations. We wish we could have stayed longer and rescued everyone who was so desperate to leave. That we could not is truly heartbreaking, but the circumstances on the ground rapidly deteriorated,” Eyre said.
U.S. President Joe Biden has said he is sticking to his Aug. 31 deadline for completing the U.S. pullout as the Taliban insisted he must, ramping up pressure on the already risky airlift from Kabul to get out as many people as possible in the coming days.
Canada and European allies pressed for more time but lost the argument.
Canada is one many countries taking part in the evacuation of people facing Taliban reprisals from Kabul’s airport. Over 1,000 refugees are in Canada now. Canada has plans to resettle 20,000 Afghan refugees.
BERLIN — Germany’s defense minister says terror threats in Kabul have become “significantly more concrete” as the international evacuation effort from the airport in the Afghan capital is nearing its end.
Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said on Thursday that the effort is “now in what is certainly the most hectic, dangerous and sensitive phase. We know that the terror threats have intensified massively and that they have become significantly more concrete.”
She said Germany’s foreign ministry told people in Kabul overnight that they should not try to get to the airport on their own, in line with warnings by the U.S. and others.
The German military was still flying between Kabul and Tashkent, Uzbekistan on Thursday. It wasn’t immediately clear when exactly the German evacuation effort would end.
Germany’s top military commander, Gen. Eberhard Zorn, said that as of Thursday afternoon German flights had evacuated some 5,200 people from 45 nations, including about 4,200 Afghans.
Zorn said two small German helicopters that were flown into Kabul a few days ago, intended to help get individuals to the airport, were flown out to Tashkent overnight.
WARSAW, Poland — A deputy foreign minister in Poland said on Thursday that his country is looking for the family of 13-year-old Afghan boy, Fawad, who got separated from his parents in the crowd pressing on the Kabul airport.
Fawad has been brought to safety in Poland but his parents’ whereabouts were not immediately known.
Marcin Przydacz said that Fawad’s parents could have been evacuated on another flight to a Western country, such as the United States or Britain, but have not yet been localized. The first appeal for help in finding Fawad’s family, with the boy’s photo was made on Twitter by Poland’s government official, Michal Dworczyk, on Tuesday.
LONDON — Britain’s prime minster says the “overwhelming majority” of people eligible to come to Britain have been evacuated from Afghanistan, but time is running out on the airlift.
Boris Johnson said about 15,000 people have left Kabul airport on Royal Air Force flights. He said that “in the time we have left, which may be — as I’m sure everybody can appreciate — quite short, we’ll do everything we can to get everybody else.”
U.S. forces are due to leave the airport by Aug. 31, and other countries’ missions will have to wrap up before then.
Visiting a military base in London where the British evacuation effort is being coordinated, Johnson said Britain hoped to continue evacuations after the end of the month, and urged the Taliban to facilitate it.
Johnson said “the safe passage for those who want to come out is the key precondition” for development aid and access to international funding for Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.
BRUSSELS — The European Union still has a skeleton staff in Kabul working to evacuate people as the end of airlifts from the chaotic airport looms.
A number of European nations have said that they are ending their evacuation efforts ahead of the Aug. 31 deadline for the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
European Commission foreign affairs spokesman Peter Stano said Thursday that a small EU team “will be on the ground as long as necessary in order to complete the evacuation operations.”
He declined to give more details, saying he didn’t want to share more details “because they are operating in an environment which is not exactly friendly.”
Stano says that more than 400 Afghans who worked for the EU in Afghanistan, along with their families, have already been evacuated.
He adds that “there are still some people who we need and want to get out” but would not give more detail, citing “operational reasons.”
Commission spokesman Eric Mamer says that the 400 Afghan EU workers and their families “are in the process of being transferred to member states who offered places.”
He called discussions about their relocation “a very intense process” but adds that members of the 27-nation bloc “are very clear that they are they are willing to help” accommodate the EU’s Afghan staff.
MOSCOW — The Kremin says that Russia will closely follow the developments in Afghanistan before making a decision on whether to recognize the Taliban’s rule.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday that Moscow will watch the Taliban’s “future steps to ensure order and security of the country’s citizens and provide security for the Russian diplomats.”
Peskov emphasized that Russia wants to see peace and stability in Afghanistan and hopes that efforts will be taken to stem the flow of drugs coming from the country.
Moscow, which fought a 10-year war in Afghanistan that ended with the Soviet troops’ withdrawal in 1989, has made a diplomatic comeback as a mediator over the past few years, reaching out to feuding Afghan factions including the Taliban even though the group was added to the Russian list of terrorist organizations in 2003.
BUCHAREST, Romania — Romania’s Supreme Council of National Defense says Romania will contribute a maximum of 200 troops to NATO missions to “evacuate and relocate Afghan citizens.”
“The NATO operation will, in principle, consist of taking Afghan citizens from temporary bases in Kuwait and Qatar and relocating them to temporary stationed bases on the territory of allied states,” the supreme council said in a statement after a meeting Wednesday.
The council said that Romanian troops would contribute for a maximum of six months and that operations would start in August.
The security council also said that during the meeting it decided “further steps would be taken to bring Afghan citizens,” such as journalists, human rights activists, magistrates, and students to safety in Romania. It did not provide further details on how or when this would happen.
Romanian authorities have earmarked a number of Afghans for evacuation to Romania, but none could make it safely to Kabul airport last week when Romania carried out three evacuation flights, officials said.
The security council also said in the meeting that Afghanistan’s swift takeover by the Taliban “may have security consequences” for Romania, “due to the dangers posed by extremism, terrorism, the export of instability in the region, drug and arms trafficking, (and) illegal migration.”
LONDON — A former Royal Marine who runs an animal charity in Afghanistan says he, his Afghan staff and dozens of dogs and cats are stuck outside Kabul’s airport as they try to get a flight out of the country.
Paul “Pen” Farthing appealed to the Taliban to allow the group safe passage into the airport. He tweeted to Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen that “we have been here for 10 hours after being assured that we would have safe passage. Truly would like to go home now.”
Farthing has been pressing for days to get staff of his Nowzad charity out of Afghanistan, along with the group’s rescued animals.
Dominic Dyer, a British animal campaigner who is assisting Farthing, said a plane had been chartered and was due to leave the U.K. later Thursday for Kabul.
Farthing’s supporters have clashed with Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, who refused to airlift the animals on a Royal Air Force plane. saying “I have to prioritize people at the moment over pets.”
The U.K. defense ministry later said it would help Farthing, his group and the animals leave on the privately funded chartered jet.
Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said Thursday that U.K. forces at the airport would “facilitate” the flight. He told ITV that “the difficulty is getting Pen into the airfield.”
HELSINKI — Finland said Thursday it had evacuated 51 people from Kabul to the Nordic country, adding that its total number of evacuees has risen to close to 340 people.
The Finnish Foreign Ministry wrote on Twitter that Finland too had assisted four people on their way to other countries Wednesday when the people were evacuated.
“Cooperation is power,” the ministry wrote, adding that Finland in total had assisted 30 persons from “our partner countries.”
MILAN — The Afghan director of a school for girls dedicated to an Italian newspaper correspondent killed in Afghanistan is trying desperately to gain access to the Kabul airport for evacuation, with anxiety growing as the end of flights nears.
Shir Ahmad Mohammadi has sent messages to contacts in Italy as well as Italian officials in Kabul, saying that the Taliban are not allowing him and his family near the airport, Corriere della Sera reported on Thursday.
“Help me, I can’t go on. The Taliban are not allowing us to pass. They are asking for U.S. documents that we don’t have,” Mohammadi wrote.
He is the director of a school in Herat province named for Maria Grazia Cutuli, a Corriere correspondent killed in 2001. He traveled by bus with his wife and two daughters, finding himself in the capital controlled by the Taliban and with foreign troops by now closed off in the airport.
“I served female students in Afghanistan, giving them the chance to study in the name of your country. Now it is time that I think of my daughters, and try to get them to safety,’’ he wrote. “I have my two daughters with me, what should I do, I cannot leave them to be treated in this way. I have to take care of their security and their dignity. That is why I made this trip.”
He said his wife and daughters are under increasing strain. “I don’t know how long we can keep going in these conditions,’’ Mohammadi wrote.
WARSAW, Poland — Poland says the reason it has halted its evacuation flights was so that the United States could meet its Aug. 31 deadline to quit Kabul.
That is the “date when the last U.S. soldier is to leave Kabul airport,” Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz said Thursday, but to make that possible all others must leave first.
Przydacz said that some countries have not yet evacuated all their citizens and associates and for this reason they were continuing their evacuation missions. Poland however has met its evacuation goals and ended its mission.
Przydacz said that “no matter how long the mission would have taken and how many people would have been evacuated, if a Polish diplomat or a soldier got hurt, the mission would not have been a success.”
Przydacz said it was a difficult decision to wrap up the evacuation but that “today, with such high level of terrorist threat, amid the growing instability, we see no possibility of putting the lives of our people at risk any longer. They have really done an immense job.”
He mentioned the consuls at the spot, finding people in the crowd, diplomats in various countries securing instant permission for Polish planes to fly over their territory, and officials in Warsaw who worked round the clock to bring people to safety.
Poland has evacuated some 1,300 people in 14 flights, through Uzbekistan. Some 200 of the evacuees were rescued at the request of other countries, and of the IMF. The last group arrived Thursday morning.
Przydacz said that Poland will be ready to air lift more people if commercial flights from Afghanistan are restored.
ISTANBUL – The first Turkish troops evacuated from Afghanistan arrived back in Turkey on Thursday.
TV footage showed a Turkish Airlines flight carrying 345 soldiers land at Ankara’s Esenboga Airport, having departed Kabul on Wednesday evening. Some 600 Turkish troops were based in Afghanistan.
“We aim to complete the transfer as soon as possible,” Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said in a statement.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The foundation created by toymaker Lego and its parent company say they will donate 100 million kroner ($16 million) to support vulnerable children in Haiti and Afghanistan.
“The humanitarian crises that are happening in Haiti and Afghanistan are unimaginable and only intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Thomas Kirk Kristiansen, chairman of the LEGO Foundation.
Since May 2021, more than 500,000 people have been displaced in Afghanistan. As for Haiti, the Aug. 14 violent earthquake that was followed by a tropical storm “has left half-a-million Haitian children with limited or no access to shelter, safe water, health care, and nutrition.”
“With COVID-19 still (being) an imminent threat to the health and safety of Haiti’s population, the loss and damage associated with these most recent natural disasters only further compounds the dire situation so many children and families are experiencing,” they said in a joint statement.
Based in Denmark, the Lego Foundation and parent company KIRKBI A/S said that they had partnered up with, among others, two U.N. agencies — UNICEF and UNHCR — as well as Education Cannot Wait, a global fund to transform the delivery of education in emergencies.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Qatar says it has helped the evacuation of more than 40,000 people from Kabul airport.
The small nation on the Arabian Peninsula says most will transit through Qatar after staying in temporary accommodations.
Qatar says that “the evacuation efforts will continue in the coming days in consultation with international partners.”
Qatar also hosts an office of the Taliban and was the site of negotiations between America, the toppled Afghan government and the insurgents.
NEW DELHI — India says it has evacuated most of its nationals from Afghanistan and is doing everything to bring them back home.
India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar told a meeting of political leaders on Thursday that India has operated six flights so far from Kabul after a stunning takeover by the Taliban. “A few of them (Indians) are still there.”
He didn’t give the exact number of Indians and Afghans evacuated so far from Kabul but the Indian media put their numbers around 800.
He declined to say how India is going to deal with the Taliban government in Afghanistan. “The situation in Afghanistan is yet to settle down. I will talk about it later,” Jaishankar told reporters.
New Delhi had stayed away from the Taliban except for back-channel contacts in recent months. It didn’t recognize the Taliban government that ruled Afghanistan from 1996-2001.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s prime minister has called on the international community to continue engagement with Afghanistan, saying it was a “way forward to avert any humanitarian crisis and secure peace and stability.”
Imran Khan made his comment during a meeting with David Beasley, executive director of the United Nations World Food Program who met with him in Islamabad. Khan also called for the formation of an inclusive government to ensure peace and avoid an humanitarian crisis, after the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan.
The latest development comes as dozens of Afghans continue to enter Pakistan via its land borders. But the number of Afghan people entering Pakistan through land routes has been steadily decreasing since earlier this week.
BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungary says its army has evacuated all Hungarian citizens from Afghanistan of which the defense ministry is aware.
Defense Minister Tibor Benko told a press conference on Thursday that 540 people, among them 57 Afghan families including 180 children, had been evacuated to Hungary from Kabul.
Of the Afghan citizens who assisted Hungarian forces in Afghanistan since 2003, the army has evacuated 87%, he said, adding that Hungarian, Afghan, Austrian and U.S. citizens were evacuated during the operation.
All of the nearly 100 Hungarian soldiers that participated in the evacuation operation have returned to Hungary, Benko said. No injuries occurred during the evacuation operations, though there were Afghan citizens who sustained injuries prior to their evacuation, he said.
Seven Hungarian soldiers were killed during military operations in Afghanistan since 2003, Benko said.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch government says it is pulling its troops and diplomats out of the Kabul airport over the security situation.
In a letter to parliament Thursday, the foreign and defense ministers say that “the Netherlands has been told by the United States to leave today and will most likely carry out its last flight later today.”
They add that “in light of the extremely quickly deteriorating situation in and around the airport, evacuees can no longer be assisted by the Netherlands to get access to the airport.”
LONDON — The British, French and Danish militaries have given stark warnings about the security situation at the Kabul airport, where Afghan civilians are scrambling to evacuate ahead of the Aug. 31 deadline for foreign troops to leave Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
British Armed Forces Minister James Heappey told the BBC on Thursday there was ”very, very credible reporting of an imminent attack” at the airport. Other warnings emerged about a possible threat from Afghanistan’s Islamic State affiliate, which likely has seen its ranks boosted by the Taliban freeing prisoners across the country.
Heappey conceded that people are desperate to leave and “there is an appetite by many in the queue to take their chances, but the reporting of this threat is very credible indeed and there is a real imminence to it.”
French Prime Minister Jean Castex told French radio RTL on Thursday that “from tomorrow evening onwards, we are not able to evacuate people from the Kabul airport” due to the Aug. 31 American withdrawal.
Meanwhile, Danish defense minister Trine Bramsen bluntly warned: “It is no longer safe to fly in or out of Kabul.” Denmark’s last flight, carrying 90 people plus soldiers and diplomats, already had left Kabul.
Poland and Belgium have already ended their evacuations from Afghanistan.
BERLIN — The German army says it has sent another military transport plane to Kabul to evacuate further people from the Afghan capital.
The army tweeted that the plane departed from Tashkent Thursday morning.
Altogether, the German army, or Bundeswehr, has airlifted 5,193 people out of Kabul, 539 of those on Wednesday.
The defense ministry tweeted that, “We could already help many. We will evacuate until the last second.”
Government officials have not said when exactly the German evacuation mission is going to end but it is expected that the country will stop evacuating people with military planes ahead of the Americans’ pullout date of August 31.
WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s prime minister said that the country has evacuated over 900 Afghan citizens, as the country prepared to end its evacuation mission later Thursday.
“The evacuation action from Afghanistan ends today,” said Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki at a news conference in Warsaw.
Another government official, Michal Dworczyk, said that a total of 44 flights were made transporting over 1,100 people. More than 900 of them are Afghans who have cooperated with Poland for years. He said the last transport with civilians from Afghanistan would land in Poland on Thursday morning.
The Afghan ambassador to Poland, Tahir Qadiry, also spoke at the news conference, expressing his thanks to the Polish government and the Polish people and voicing hope that the evacuated Afghan citizens will be able to return home one day.
ISTANBUL — Turkish civilian technicians could help operate Kabul airport after the withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan, a senior Turkish official said Thursday.
Ibrahim Kalin, spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said talks with the Taliban were underway to determine the operation of Hamid Karzai International Airport.
“We can continue the operation of the airport there even after our troops withdraw,” Kalin told broadcaster NTV. “Our civilian experts can provide support for the airport and negotiations regarding this are continuing.”
Turkey announced its troops had begun to leave Kabul, where they have been helping guard the airport, on Wednesday evening. Kalin said the troop withdrawal would be completed within 36 hours.
Prior to the Taliban taking Kabul on Aug. 15, NATO member Turkey had offered to secure and operate the airport following the U.S. withdrawal.