At least 13 US service members killed in Kabul airport attack

By Rob Picheta, Meg Wagner, Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya, Veronica Rocha and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 0427 GMT (1227 HKT) August 27, 2021
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11:23 a.m. ET, August 26, 2021

President Biden is in the Situation Room

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

President Biden is currently in the Situation Room, a White House official says. He was briefed on the situation in Afghanistan.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken are with him.

Biden was in the Situation Room with his national security team for his daily Afghanistan briefing when the information of an explosion came in, according to a senior administration official. He and his top aides have remained there as they continue to receive information from the ground and as events continue to develop, the official said. 

The President's meeting with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, scheduled for 11:30 a.m. ET, has been delayed, a US official said. 

Moments ago, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby confirmed that there was at least one other explosion near the airport, at or near the Baron Hotel.

He said he can confirm that the explosion at Abbey Gate was a "result of a complex attack that resulted in a number of US and civilian casualties."

11:14 a.m. ET, August 26, 2021

Pentagon confirms second explosion near Kabul airport and "a number of US and civilian casualties"

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby confirmed that there was at least one other explosion near the airport, this at or near the Baron Hotel.

He said he can confirm that the explosion at Abbey Gate was a "result of a complex attack that resulted in a number of US & civilian casualties."

Note: The term "casualties" can refer to those wounded or dead.

See Kirby's tweet:

11:07 a.m. ET, August 26, 2021

Biden warned of a potential attack in Kabul multiple times over past week

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

President Biden has warned of the possibility of a terror attack at the airport as the threat became more acute, particularly naming ISIS-K in Afghanistan as the greatest threat.

He has used this as rationale for getting US troops out by the deadline.

Here's a timeline of what he's said over the past few days:

Aug. 20: 

"We're also keeping a close watch on any potential terrorist threat at or around the airport, including from the ISIS affiliates in Afghanistan who were released from prison when the prisons were emptied. And because they are, by the way – to make everybody understand – that the ISIS in Afghanistan are the – have been the sworn enemy of the Taliban. 
I've said all along: We're going to retain a laser-focus on our counterterrorism mission, working in close coordination with our allies and our partners and all those who have an interest in ensuring stability in the region." 

Aug. 22

"They’re maintaining constant vigilance to mon- – we’re maintaining the constant vigilance to monitor and disrupt threats from any source, including the likely source being ISIS – ISIS-K, the Afghan affiliate referred to as “ISIS-K.” But we are under no illusions about the threat.
I said on Friday, ISIS-K is a sworn enemy of the Taliban, and they have a history of fighting one another. But every day we have troops on the ground, these troops and innocent civilians at the airport face the risk of attack from ISIS-K from a distance, even though we’re moving back the perimeter significantly."

Aug. 24

"There are real and significant challenges that we also have to take into consideration. The longer we stay, starting with the acute and growing risk of an attack by a terrorist group known as ISIS-K, an ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan – which is the sworn enemy of the Taliban as well – every day we’re on the ground is another day we know that ISIS-K is seeking to target the airport and attack both U.S. and Allied forces and innocent civilians." 

Some background: CNN reported earlier that there was a grave and specific ISIS-K terror threat targeting crowds around the airport, and the US Embassy in Kabul advised US citizens at airport gates to “leave immediately."

The attack comes as the US and other countries race to evacuate people ahead of President Biden's Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline. 

10:59 a.m. ET, August 26, 2021

How US lawmakers are reacting to the Kabul airport attack

The Pentagon has confirmed there was an explosion near a gate at Kabul's airport which "resulted in an unknown number of casualties." According to initial reports, there are some US personnel among the wounded, according to three US officials and a source familiar with the situation.

Back in the US, some lawmakers tweeted about the explosion and the developing situation.

Republican Sen. Mitt Romney described the attack as "horrific," saying that his "heart breaks" for the wounded. 

Other Republicans blamed the White House: House GOP lawmaker Lisa McClain said, “Americans are dying at the hands of President Biden's catastrophic withdrawal," and Rep. Jim Banks referenced "Biden's incompetence."

We will continue to update this post as more reactions come in.

10:41 a.m. ET, August 26, 2021

Initial reports that US personnel among wounded in Kabul airport explosion, according to US officials

From CNN's Kylie Atwood, Barbara Starr, Nick Paton Walsh and Zachary Cohen

According to initial reports, there are some US personnel among the wounded in the explosion outside Hamid Karzai International Airport on Thursday, according to three US officials and a source familiar with the situation.

Moment ago, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby tweeted: “We can confirm that the explosion near the Abbey Gate of the Kabul airport has resulted in an unknown number of casualties. We will continue to update.”

10:38 a.m. ET, August 26, 2021

Pentagon confirms explosion near Kabul airport gate resulting in "unknown number" of casualties

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby just tweeted that an explosion near the Abbey Gate at Kabul's airport has resulted in an "unknown number of casualties."

President Biden has been briefed on the explosion.

Here's Kirby's tweet:

10:34 a.m. ET, August 26, 2021

US Embassy in Kabul security alert advises US citizens to avoid airport

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

The US Embassy in Kabul just sent an alert saying, “US citizens who are at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately” in the wake of a blast at the Hamid Karzai International Airport Thursday. 

“There has been a large explosion at the airport, and there are reports of gunfire,” the security alert said.

“U.S. citizens should avoid traveling to the airport and avoid airport gates at this time,” it added.

Read the full alert below:

Event: EXPLOSION AT THE ABBEY GATE OF KABUL AIRPORT, REPORTS OF GUNFIRE

There has been a large explosion at the airport, and there are reports of gunfire.

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.

Actions to take:

  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times, especially in large crowds.
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities including movement restrictions related to curfews.
  • Have a contingency plan for emergencies and review the Traveler’s Checklist.
  • Monitor local media for breaking events and adjust your plans based on new information.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program(STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.

10:25 a.m. ET, August 26, 2021

Officials: Explosion at Kabul airport appears to be a suicide attack

From CNN's Kylie Atwood, Jim Sciutto and Barbara Starr

(Source: CNN)
(Source: CNN)

The explosion outside the airport in Kabul was at one of the entry gates and appears to be a suicide attack, according to three US officials. 

There have been crowds of Afghans at the gates trying to gain access to the airport.

President Biden has been briefed on the explosion outside Kabul airport, a White House official says.

9:54 a.m. ET, August 26, 2021

Biden briefed on explosion outside Kabul's airport

From CNN's Jeremy Diamond

President Biden has been briefed on the explosion outside Kabul airport, a White House official says.

Moments ago, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby confirmed there was an explosion but said possible casualties are unclear.