Americans in Afghanistan are being warned to stay away from the Kabul airport due to terror threats tied to the Islamic State.
The US Embassy in Kabul sent out an alert early Thursday, Afghanistan time, telling US citizens not to travel to the airport “because of security threats outside the gates.
Senior US officials told the Associated Press that the warning was related to specific threats involving ISIS and potential vehicle bombs.
The State Department security alert also told Americans who where at three specific airport gates to “leave immediately,” without further explanation.
“Because of security threats outside the gates of Kabul airport, we are advising U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to the airport and to avoid airport gates at this time unless you receive individual instructions from a US government representative to do so,” the statement read.
“US citizens who are at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately,” it added.
The warning came as Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that up to 1,500 US citizens are still stranded in the Taliban-controlled country. Americans have been trying to make it to Kabul’s airport to get on evacuation flights before the US pulls its troops from the country Aug. 31.
President Biden on Tuesday cited what he called “the acute and growing risk of an attack” by the ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan, known as ISIS-K, as a reason not to extend the withdrawal timeline.
“Every day we’re on the ground is another day we know that ISIS-K is seeking to target the airport and attack both US and Allied forces and innocent civilians,” the president said.
A US defense official told CNN Wednesday that Washington has received a “very specific threat stream” of intelligence related to multiple potential attacks by ISIS-K against crowds of Afghans who have swarmed the airport day after day in a desperate attempt to get a place on an evacuation flight.
The UK’s Foreign Office issued a similar travel alert to the one put out by the State Department Wednesday, warning of “an ongoing and high threat of terrorist attack.”
“Do not travel to Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport,” the warning said. “If you are in the area of the airport, move away to a safe location and await further advice.”
ISIS-K, which is short for ISIS-Khorasan — the terror group’s name for the territory that includes Afghanistan and Pakistan — has carried out some of the deadliest attacks of the latter years of the Afghanistan war. In May, a triple bomb attack outside a girls’ school in Kabul killed at least 68 people and wounded more than 165.
Blinken estimated that officials have been “in direct contact” with about 500 Americans who had been provided with “specific instructions on how to get to the airport safely.”
In addition, Blinken said, the State Department has been in contact with approximately 1,000 more people “who may be Americans seeking to leave Afghanistan.”
The secretary added that about 4,500 Americans have been flown out since Aug. 14, the day before the Taliban entered Kabul and touched off a humanitarian crisis.
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