An eyewitness to the deadly suicide bombing outside the Kabul airport’s main entrance on Thursday said a young girl died in his arms — and the American troops killed and injured by the blast were checking passports.
The Afghan, who identified himself as Karl and said he was a translator for the US Marines, told Fox News that he was waiting in line outside Hamid Karzai International Airport for a plane to take him out of the country.
“There was an explosion that happened inside the crowd — a lot of people got hurt,” he said. “I got a baby girl — she was 5 years old — she died right in my hands.”
“I think some of the Americans, they got hurt, too, and people are running around,” Karl continued, adding that he was taking some of the victims of the blast to the hospital in his vehicle.
Karl said American forces were outside the airport when the explosion occurred.
“It happened by a canal. And the Americans were on the other side of the canal, and they were checking people’s passports and stuff and those people that have visas, they were taking them by the airport. That’s why they were outside,” he told Fox News.
The Pentagon later confirmed that at least 12 US service members had died in the twin blasts — 11 Marines and one Navy medic. At least 15 other service members were wounded, making Thursday the bloodiest day for American forces in Afghanistan since 2011.
An Afghan official told the Associated Press that at least 60 Afghans were killed and another 143 were wounded in the attack.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby called the twin suicide explosions a “complex attack.” The ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan, known as ISIS-K, claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Images posted on Twitter by TOLO News show Afghans pushing bloodied victims of the explosion in wheelbarrows in the streets of Kabul.
An unidentified Afghan with a US Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) told Reuters he had been standing in line outside the airport’s Abbey Gate for about 10 hours when the first explosion occurred around 5 p.m. Kabul time.
“It was as if someone pulled the ground from under my feet,” the man said. “For a moment I thought my eardrums were blasted and I lost my sense of hearing.”
“I saw bodies and body parts flying in the air like a tornado taking plastic bags … into the air,” the man said. “I saw bodies, body parts, elderly and injured men, women and children scattered in the blast site.
“It is not possible to see doomsday in this life, but today I saw doomsday, I witnessed it with my own eyes.”
The man added that due to the chaotic and uncertain security situation, survivors were obligated to carry away the dead and wounded.
“Dead bodies and wounded were lying in the road and in the sewage canal,” he recalled. “The little water flowing into it had turned into blood.”
The second blast was at or near the Baron Hotel, located about 200 yards from the airport and a location where many people — including Afghans, Britons and Americans — were told to gather in recent days before heading to the airport for evacuation.
Paul “Pen” Farthing, a former Royal Marine who runs an animal shelter in Afghanistan, told Britain’s Press Association that he and his staff were caught up in a firefight in the aftermath of the explosions.
“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,” he said.
Emergency, an Italian charity that operates hospitals in Afghanistan, said it had received at least 60 patients wounded in the airport attack, in addition to 10 who were dead when they arrived.
“Surgeons will be working into the night,” Marco Puntin, the charity’s manager in Afghanistan, told the Associated Press. The wounded overflowed the triage zone into the physiotherapy area and more beds were being added, he said.
The blasts took place hours after the State Department warned Americans not to travel to the airport and told those congregating near the facility’s three gates to “leave immediately.”
Officials told multiple outlets that they had received credible terror threats involving potential ISIS car bombings.
On Tuesday, President Joe Biden cited the growing threat from ISIS-K as a reason not to extend the deadline for the final US withdrawal from Afghanistan past August 31.
“Every day we’re on the ground,” the president said, “is another day we know that ISIS-K is seeking to target the airport and attack both US and Allied forces and innocent civilians.”
With Post wires