'Severe' terror attack at Kabul airport is 'imminent', minister warns

‘Severe threat’ of an ‘imminent’ ISIS attack at Kabul airport: British armed forces minister’s warning after Afghans were told to make for the border instead of waiting for evacuation

  • James Heappey says there is ‘very credible reporting’ of a ‘severe’ attack in Kabul
  • The US has told citizens to avoid travelling to the airport due to the terror risk
  • Thousands of stranded foreigners and Afghans are still desperately trying to flee

A minister has warned that a ‘very serious’ ISIS terror threat at Kabul airport is ‘imminent’ as thousands desperately try to flee Afghanistan.

Western forces are still stationed at the transport hub during the last-minute evacuations of stranded foreigners, making the site a likely target for an attack.

Armed forces minister James Heappey said that there is ‘very credible reporting’ of a  ‘severe’ attack by ISIS-K, the sworn enemy of the Taliban who want to cause mayhem in the new regime.

A minister has warned that a ‘very serious’ terror threat at Kabul airport is ‘imminent’ as thousands desperately try to flee Afghanistan. Pictured: people waiting outside Hamid Karzai airport

He told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘There is now very, very credible reporting of an imminent attack.

‘It’s an extraordinarily challenging situation both on the ground and as a set of decisions to be taken here in Whitehall because people are desperate, people are fearing for their lives anyway.

‘And so I think 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.

‘I can only say the threat is severe.’

He added: ‘I can’t stress the desperation of the situation enough, the threat is credible, it is imminent, it is lethal.

‘And we wouldn’t be saying this if we weren’t genuinely concerned about offering Islamic State a target.’

America, Britain and Australia all told their citizens in the early hours of Thursday to immediately leave the area over fears of a deadly blast from jihadists ISIS-K.

Armed forces minister James Heappey said that there is ‘very credible reporting’ of a ‘severe’ attack

What is ISIS-K? 

ISIS-K is one of six or seven regional offshoots of the Islamic State – the K stands for the Khorasan region, which historically encompasses parts of modern day Iran, Central Asia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

ISIS-K was begun in 2014, as a splinter group from the Pakistani Taliban, and its original leaders were from Pakistan.

In 2015 it was recognized by ISIS’s leaders in Iraq and Syria, and in January 2016 declared a terrorist organization by the State Department.

Its strongholds are eastern Afghanistan, straddling the border with Pakistan in Nangarhar province, and the north of Afghanistan. 

In 2018 the group was weakened in the north of Afghanistan, and in 2019 severely beaten back in the east. But in 2020 they regrouped and launched a series of devastating terror attacks. 

US officials said last night there was a ‘very real risk’ of an attack by the terror group who are the Taliban’s rivals.

‘Due to threats outside the Kabul airport, US citizens should avoid traveling to the airport and avoid airport gates unless you receive instructions to do so,’ the US State Department tweeted on Wednesday night. 

‘Those at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately.’ 

The UK last night told its Afghan allies to head for the border rather than attempt to get into Kabul airport where US and British forces are winding down their operations.  

As evacuation efforts entered their final hours, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace appeared to signal in a briefing to MPs that there are few places left on British planes.  

Questioned yesterday about what Afghans who have been offered student places or fellowships in the UK should do, Mr Wallace said: ‘If they think they can make it to a third country, that may be a better option.’

Pressed by a Tory backbencher, Mr Wallace added: ‘I recommend that they try and make it to the border … because it is higher profile going to the airport – that is where the Taliban will be focusing their efforts at the moment.’

There was no suggestion however, that Afghans who have been told by western officials to travel to the airport for evacuation should alter that plan. 

Heappey said the ‘window of opportunity to evacuate people is closing’ ahead of the August 31 troop withdrawal deadline. 

He said: ‘We will do our best to protect those who are there. There is every chance that as further reporting comes in we may be able to change the advice again and process people anew but there’s now guarantee of that.

‘But… the window of opportunity to evacuate people is closing. It’s not as simply a case of we can pause, deal with the threat and pick up where we left off.’

He said there will be 11 more flights out of Kabul on Thursday but declined to say whether there will be more on Friday, citing the security of troops.

Meanwhile, troubling video yesterday showed thousands of Afghans attempting to flee the country via the Pakistan border.

The footage shows a huge crowd of people at Spin Boldak, a southern village on the border with Pakistan, queuing up at the border gates.  

It comes amid reports that desperate Britons and Afghans cleared for evacuation are still trapped in Kabul and are being charged more than £5,000 by local ‘private security firms’  to help them escape the clutches of the Taliban.

The firms are reportedly charging $7,500 dollars (approximately £5,500) to give those willing to pay a safe passage past Taliban fighters and to Kabul airport.

But most of the money is actually being used to pay off the Taliban anyway, say UK defence sources.

It came as: 

  • Tory MPs joined US Republicans in condemning President Biden’s Afghanistan ‘betrayal’ as UK races to get last 2,000 people out in 24 hours; 
  • Shocking video revealed a Australian citizen being beaten and taken away with his family by the Taliban while trying to reach evacuation flight; 
  • A furious row broke out about a Kabul animal rescue flight after MoD denied claims from wildlife campaigners that PM’s wife played role in getting approval; 
  • And a former CIA agent claimed the evacuation could be over sooner than the August 31 deadline, adding: ‘We’re leaving in 72 hours – it doesn’t matter who’s left on the ground.’

Troubling video showed thousands of Afghans attempting to flee the country via the Pakistan border. The footage shows a huge crowd of people at Spin Boldak, a southern village on the border with Pakistan, queuing up at the border gates

Meanwhile, crowds of people wait outside the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, yesterday as the evacuation mission continues


Pressed by a Tory backbencher, Mr Wallace added: ‘I recommend that they try and make it to the border … because it is higher profile going to the airport – that is where the Taliban will be focusing their efforts at the moment.’ Around 150 flights left Kabul airport yesterday as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab insisted the UK will use ‘every hour left’ to rescue vulnerable Afghans

Some of those trying to flee the Taliban may be better off heading for the border rather than hoping for a flight out, the Defence Secretary admitted last night. 

Hundreds of people gather near an evacuation control checkpoint during ongoing evacuations at Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul 

Private security firms are charging terrified Britons who are cleared for evacuation but trapped in the chaos of Kabul 

Desperate Britons and Afghans cleared for evacuation are reportedly paying private security firms more than £5,000 to help them escape the clutches of the Taliban, it has been reported.

The firms are reportedly charging $7,500 dollars (approximately £5,500) to give those willing to pay a safe passage past Taliban fighters and to Kabul airport.

But most of the money is actually being used to pay off the Taliban anyway, UK defence sources have told the Guardian.

It comes as yesterday Taliban officials announced a new edict banning Afghans from leaving the country.

Roadblocks and check points were set up across Kabul to prevent access to the airport where western forces are carrying out a rapid evacuation.

Meanwhile, the UK’s Defence Secretary last night warned some of those trying to flee the Taliban may be better off heading for the border rather than hoping for a flight out.

As evacuation efforts entered their final hours, Ben Wallace appeared to signal in a briefing to MPs that there are few places left on British planes. 

The frantic race to rescue the last 2,000 Afghan allies was underway last night as the Daily Mail learned all UK troops must leave Afghanistan by the weekend. 

Around 150 flights left Kabul airport yesterday as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab insisted the UK will use ‘every hour left’ to rescue vulnerable Afghans.

But the grim reality is that many hundreds – including heroic Afghan interpreters – will be left to the clutches of the Taliban after Tuesday’s deadline for international troops to leave. 

A US order that Britain must pull out its 1,000 soldiers and officials before the US begins its withdrawal has reduced the time available to process the final claims.

US commanders have also insisted on ‘two to three days’ to conduct a unilateral extraction of their 6,000-strong force, meaning the last UK troops are expected to fly out on Sunday.

The order came as the Taliban further tightened its grip on the airport, using checkpoints to block anyone not holding the necessary paperwork and demanding bribes from those who did.

Afghans and foreign citizens suffered beatings. 

Video footage showed an Australian with blood streaming down his face from a head wound after he was confronted by Taliban guards.

There were estimated to be 10,000 Afghans crammed outside the gates to the airport.

UK commander Brigadier Dan Blanchford said they faced ‘harrowing and extreme conditions’.  

Since the start of the operation, the RAF has flown out 11,474 people, including almost 7,000 vulnerable Afghans. 

It has evacuated more than 2,500 UK nationals, 341 British Embassy officials and around 1,000 nationals from 38 nations.  The figure of 2,000 awaiting rescue could rise, with the last freedom flight possibly tomorrow.

Around 150 flights left Kabul airport yesterday as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab insisted the UK will use ‘every hour left’ to rescue vulnerable Afghans. In this image provided by the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Air Force loadmasters and pilots assigned to the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, load people being evacuated from Afghanistan onto a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster

There were estimated to be 10,000 Afghans crammed outside the gates to the airport. UK commander Brigadier Dan Blanchford said they faced ‘harrowing and extreme conditions’. Pictured: Afghans line up outside a bank to take out cash as people keep waiting at Hamid Karzai International Airport

‘We’re leaving in 72 hours – it doesn’t matter who’s left on the ground,’ says former CIA agent

American civilians and Afghan allies have just 72 hours before evacuations from Kabul end, a former CIA officer and terrorism expert has claimed.

Sam Faddis, who served as the head of the Counter Terrorism Center’s Weapons of Mass Destruction unit, said sources in the Pentagon, military officers in Kabul and other former intelligence agency officers have told him that flights for civilians out of the Afghan capital will actually end in the next three days.

The alleged deadline has not been officially announced or verified, but raises fears that American citizens could be left behind in the Taliban-occupied city.

On Tuesday President Joe Biden confirmed that US forces will be leaving the country by August 31, a date agreed with the Taliban – but Faddis claims American civilians currently in the city have a far shorter deadline.

‘Biden decided we’re pulling out within 72 hours. We’re gone, and it doesn’t matter who’s left on the ground,’ the ex-CIA officer told DailyMail.com.

There are ‘special cases’ still to be processed – Afghans to be offered sanctuary in the UK due to the likelihood they will be targeted by the Taliban.

British troops face an increased threat of a terrorist attack from jihadis.

At the airport, a young Afghan woman told the BBC that Taliban forces were treating the crowds of waiting civilians ‘like animals’. 

Before she boarded a flight, she said: ‘Today after three days, I finally got into the airport and I have my flight. It took us 18 hours to get through one of the gates .

‘The airport is completely surrounded by Taliban forces and they’re being as brutal as they can to the people. They’re shooting at people, they’re beating people.

‘I have mixed feelings. On the one hand I’m travelling to a safer country – anything right now is better than being in a country led by the Taliban. 

‘On the other, I’m leaving behind everything – my life, my work, my dreams, my hopes. I really desperately want to one day come back to Kabul and see Kabul free of the Taliban.’ 

Amid the horror, there was also humanity. A British officer described looking after a baby girl after she child became separated from her mother in the crush.

Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Caesar of 16 Medical Regiment, said: ‘We took her for a walk around our hospital, managed to burp her a few times. She seemed to settle.

‘One of the challenges in this sort of environment is never really knowing who is going to come through the door. We have to be prepared for every eventuality.

‘Fortunately as a recent father myself I have a bit of experience in dealing with small children. She was later reunited with her mother before being evacuated.’ 

At the airport, a young Afghan woman told the BBC that Taliban forces were treating the crowds of waiting civilians ‘like animals’. Before she boarded a flight, she said: ‘Today after three days, I finally got into the airport and I have my flight. It took us 18 hours to get through one of the gates.’ Pictured: A C-17 Globemaster lll lands on the runway as evacuees from Afghanistan debark a C-17 Globemaster

Two paratroopers assigned to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division conduct security while a C-130 Hercules takes off during a evacuation operation in Kabul

A heart-breaking announcement for those who remain is expected ‘imminently’, according to political sources. The crowds are expected to be told, perhaps today, that evacuations for civilians are no longer possible.

Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the Commons defence committee, said: ‘We are down to the last hours. 

‘It is vital we communicate with those waiting outside the airport to prevent panic and loss of life, confirming what has happened.

They will have to be told, sadly, that no more evacuation flights are possible ahead of the August 31 deadline and that, as from then, only military withdrawal flights will be taking off.’ 

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