Rajat Sharma

Kabul bomb attacks: Who did it and why?

rajat-sir The death toll in the Kabul bloodbath has risen to 90, with many among 150 injured people still in critical condition. On Thursday, ISIS(Khorasan) suicide bombers carried out the attacks in the midst of huge crowds of Afghans waiting for evacuation near Kabul airport. Among those killed were at least 13 American soldiers with another 12 soldiers seriously wounded. US President Joe Biden vowed to hunt down those responsible. “We will not forgive. Will not forget. We will hunt you down – and make you pay”, he said.

Biden clearly said that the suicide bomb attacks will not deter the US from continuing with its evacuation effort. In reply to a reporter’s question, the US President said, “I bear responsibility fundamentally for all that’s happened of late.”

The ISIS(K) issued a statement claiming responsibility for the horrible suicide attacks. It said, its targets were American troops and their Afghan allies. The statement also carried the photograph of the suicide bomber who carried out the attack. The image showed the ISIS attacker wearing an explosive belt in front of a black ISIS flag with his face covered with a black cloth, and only his eyes showing.

There were gruesome scenes at the site where the suicide bomber exploded himself. A long ditch filled with garbage and water outside the airport wall was filled with bloodsoaked bodies of victims. There was blood all around and people, who were injured grievously in the blast, were screaming and groaning. There were distraught men, women and children, looking for their near and dear ones among the victims. There were several others whose clothes were drenched in blood, and they were trying to move the injured to ambulances.

On Thursday morning, there were already reports from US, UK and Australian governments that there could be a major terror strike near the airport. The three governments had issued alerts to their citizens to stay away from the airport. The US state department advisory had specifically asked its citizens to stay away from Abbey gate, East gate and North gate.

The suicide blast took place near Abbey gate. The second car bomb blast took place outside Baron Hotel, which is being used by British authorities to issue visas to its citizens and Afghan nationals. There were scenes of desperation, chaos and anger as the survivors searched for their papers and belongings at the site. Some had lost all documents, their passports and belongings. There were videos of blood-soaked bodies piled on a footpath, with some floating in the ditch.

Whatever happened at Kabul airport on Thursday is a sure sign of ISIS(K) regrouping inside Afghanistan. These two suicide attacks belie the claim that ISIS is all but dead in Afghanistan. Both ISIS and Al Qaeda had carried out terror attacks against the US in the past, and now that they have done it again. The US had struck a deal with Taliban in order to protect its troops and citizens who were evacuating. Already, the US President Joe Biden is facing a barrage of accusations from his countrymen over the shoddy manner in which the withdrawal took place. Biden is bound to face more trouble from his electorate.

In another development, which could be a pointer to the future, Taliban authorities on Wednesday and Thursday refused permission to 140 Afghan Sikhs to leave the country. These Afghan Sikhs were kept waiting by Taliban for more than 12 hours before they were told they would not be allowed to leave.

The Indian Air Force C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft was waiting at Kabul airport for evacuating them. The Afghan Sikhs were carrying two ‘swaroops’ of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Maharaj. They had come from Karte Parwan gurudwara in Kabul and were holding valid Indian pilgrim visas. On reaching Kabul airport, the Afghan Sikhs were told that Afghan nationals will no more be allowed to leave. Only foreign nationals will be allowed to evacuate.

Finally, at around 2 am in the night, the Afghan Sikhs had to return to the gurudwara empty handed. Indian government had earlier evacuated 70 Afghan Sikhs, but now this has come to a halt. Only 24 Indians and 11 Nepalese citizens were evacuated by the IAF aircraft. Indian government had planned to evacuate at least 300 persons from Kabul on Thursday, but this could not materialize.

The situation near Kabul airport has become unbearable with thousands of people still waiting for evacuation. Traders are making hefty profits by charging exorbitant rates for water bottles and foodstuff like rice and other dishes. One bottle of mineral water is being sold at 40 US dollars (Rs 3,000) and a plate of boiled rice is being sold for 100 dollars (Rs 7,500) outside Kabul airport.

On Friday morning, despite last evening’s twin bomb attacks, hundreds of Afghans were seen waiting outside the airport with their dreams to fly towards freedom. The financial system in Kabul has almost crashed with ATMs empty and banks closed. Those unable to reach Kabul airport, are now taking the land routes towards Pakistan. Thousands of Afghans are waiting at Torkham and Chaman border crossings, waiting to cross over to Pakistan. Pakistani Rangers are guarding the border with their rifles pointed towards immigrants.

The situation is fast deteriorating in Afghanistan with no signs of the Taliban enforcing governance. Situation near the Kabul airport has already become tense, and evacuation of all foreign nationals and Afghans, who want to leave, is unlikely to completed by the deadline of August 31 given by Taliban.

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