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Nick of time: Aussie airlift out of Kabul ends just hours before bombs kill 70

No Australians troops or officials were hurt in two deadly bomb blasts in Kabul that killed more than 70 people including 13 American soldiers.

Aug 27, 2021, updated Aug 27, 2021
Wounded Afghans lie on a bed at a hospital after a deadly explosions outside the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. Two suicide bombers and gunmen attacked crowds of Afghans flocking to Kabul's airport, transforming a scene of desperation into one of horror . (AP Photo/Mohammad Asif Khan)

Wounded Afghans lie on a bed at a hospital after a deadly explosions outside the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. Two suicide bombers and gunmen attacked crowds of Afghans flocking to Kabul's airport, transforming a scene of desperation into one of horror . (AP Photo/Mohammad Asif Khan)

“Australian condemns the evil, the calculated and inhuman attacks that were undertaken in Kabul overnight on the innocent and on the brave,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters on Friday.

“We join with our American and Afghan friends in mourning their terrible and awful loss.”

Defence Minister Peter Dutton confirmed Australian forces departed Kabul after the decision to complete a final airlift on Thursday.

“It’s a horrible, horrible day,” he told the Nine Network on Friday.

“I just grieve, like every decent person would, at the loss of life and in particular for us, the loss of the American lives.”

Suicide bombers – linked to the Afghan affiliate of Islamic State known as Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K) -have taken responsibility for the twin attacks.

At least 60 Afghan civilians were killed and 143 injured in the blasts that killed 12 US Marines and one Navy medic.

It is unclear whether any Australian citizens or Afghan visa holders have been caught up in the bloodbath.

Over a period of nine frantic days, Australian forces were able to evacuate 4100 people out of Taliban-held Kabul, thanks to the presence of American and British defence forces guarding the airport.

The evacuees included around 3200 Australians and visa holders and 800 people from coalition partner countries.

US President Joe Biden has vowed to hunt down the people behind the attacks.

“We will not forgive, we will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay,” Biden said from the White House.

Dutton signalled Australia would offer assistance to any mission.

“Australia has worked alongside the United States in every major battle in modern history and we will continue to work with the American allies,” he told Sky News.

“We’ve stood by them through thick and thin and we will continue to do that into the future.”

He said Australia had no better friend than the US.

“We will do whatever we can with the United States to keep our respective people and interest safe and secure,” the minister said. “We will not deviate from that path.”

Dutton said the US military provided security for thousands of Australian citizens and visa holders at two locations where the blasts were detonated.

“Our troops will be devastated by the loss of their comrades,” he said.

Australia helped about 4000 people escape Afghanistan, which descended into chaos after the Taliban rapidly seized control following a US decision to withdraw from the country after 20 years.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade had warned earlier on Thursday that people should not to travel to Kabul airport because of the risk of a terrorist attack.

“These people are more extreme than the Taliban and are basically at war with the Taliban – it is a horribly complex situation,” Dutton said.

“I’m very pleased and relieved our soldiers have departed from Kabul and we took the decision to lift the last of our people yesterday and they are safely in the United Arab Emirates.”

While the rescue mission exceeded the government’s expectations, some Australian citizens and hundreds of Afghans with visas remain in the war-torn nation.

Dutton said some people were being advised to go to other borders.

“We hope commercial flights are available again soon, but, as we’ve seen overnight, and as the intelligence continues to indicate, more terrorist attacks are likely,” he warned.

Video images uploaded by Afghan journalists showed dozens of bodies of people killed in packed crowds outside the airport.

A watery ditch by the airport fence was filled with blood-soaked corpses, some being fished out and laid in heaps on the canal side while wailing civilians searched for loved ones.

Several Western countries said the airlift of civilians was now effectively over, with the US having sealed the gates of the airport leaving no way out for tens of thousands of Afghans who worked for the West through two decades of war.

A Taliban official said at least 13 people including children had been killed in the attack and 52 were wounded, though it was clear from video footage that those figures were far from complete. One surgical hospital run by an Italian charity said it alone was treating more than 60 wounded.

The explosions took place amid the crowds outside the airport who have been massing for days in hope of escaping in an airlift which the United States says will end by Tuesday, following the swift capture of the country by the Taliban.

 

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