“Total panic” has engulfed Afghanistan, which gathered Thursday near the Kabul airport.
Just days before the August 31 deadline set by US President Joe Biden for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and the expulsion of those wishing to leave the country, thousands of exit candidates were now at the hands of the Taliban near the airport on Thursday.
They have ignored Western warnings, citing credible threats of suicide attacks around the premises where a vast air traffic has been arranged in the west since the Taliban’s sudden seizure of power in mid-August.
But as the sun began to set in the Afghan capital, two explosions erupted.
Taliban spokesman Jabihullah Mujahid told AFP that at least 13 to 20 people had been killed and 52 wounded in the attacks.
Photos posted on social media show a wheelchair carrying bloody people, or a child holding the hand of a man with a head injury.
Other images showed bodies scattered in the water of the drainage canal, with survivors getting to their feet.
Desperate cries for help were heard as people searched for their loved ones after the bombings. “The dead are lying here,” someone shouted from the camera.
As men, women and children ran in all directions to escape the eruption, dense smoke rose in the air.
The Pentagon said in a statement that the bomber struck shortly after noon in front of a crowded airport.
“It was a huge explosion, in the middle of a crowd waiting in front of one of the airport gates,” a witness said, adding that people evacuated by the French and British had passed particularly in recent days.
“There are many dead and wounded,” he said, “seeing bodies and human pieces being thrown around.”
In the confusion, he says he lost the documents he was hoping to board with his wife and three children.
I do not want to go back (to the airport). Death to the United States, its deportation and its visas, ”he said.
“People panicked when they heard the explosion. The Taliban fired into the air to disperse the people waiting in front of the door.
Shortly afterwards, the AFP photographer found at least five bodies and dozens of injured in a nearby hospital run by the Italian NGO Emergency.
Akram Lupeka, 26, who works at the airport for a catering company in Uganda, said he heard an explosion without knowing what it was. “Of course we are all scared. Everyone is tense and soldiers are parked around the airport for fear of attacks,” he said.
Western warnings did not prevent many Afghans from besieging the airport before the explosion.
Many of the deported candidates are urban and educated Afghans who fear that the Islamists will establish the same kind of fundamentalist and brutal regime that ruled between 1996 and 2001.
They include those who have worked for fallen Western government forces or allies of Western forces, for 20 years for the Taliban’s enemies, or for foreign companies that fear violent retaliation from Islamists.
The crowd was fed up with the arrival of Westerners in Afghanistan to leave, and are trying to use the opportunity for a better life in the West.
This is the case of Hamid who came with a part of his family. He served in a ministry before the Taliban came to power, and admits he was not one of the factions threatened by Kabul’s new masters.
“I heard that if I entered the airport, I could go to the United States,” he explains, expecting the Taliban to take his job and give it to “their own relatives”. In that case, “How do I take care of my family?” ”
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