(The Center Square) — Explosions in Afghanistan outside the Kabul airport Thursday have led to several civilian and military casualties and further heightened the chaotic evacuation of American citizens and Afghan nationals.
The Pentagon confirmed that “a number” of U.S. service members have been killed. Several media reports said the death toll includes at least 12 U.S. service members. Fox News reported that 11 were Marines and one was a Navy medic.
“We can confirm that a number of U.S. service members were killed in today’s complex attack at Kabul airport. A number of others are being treated for wounds,” said John Kirby, a spokesman for the Pentagon. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the loved ones and teammates of all those killed and injured.”
Immediately after the attack, the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan said there were reports of gunfire in addition to the explosions and warned Americans to stay away from the airport.
“U.S. citizens should avoid traveling to the airport and avoid airport gates at this time,” the embassy said. “U.S. citizens who are at the Abbey Gate, East Gate, or North Gate now should leave immediately.”
The Pentagon said the attack hit multiple spots with casualties.
“We can confirm that the explosion at the Abbey Gate was the result of a complex attack that resulted in a number of U.S. and civilian casualties,” Kirby said. “We can also confirm at least one other explosion at or near the Baron Hotel, a short distance from Abbey Gate. We will continue to update.”
The attacks came after the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan issued a public warning that Americans should not gather outside the Kabul airport. The Taliban has reportedly been harassing and attacking those attempting to access the airport and has publicly said they do not want Afghan nationals to leave the country.
“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 U.S. government representative to do so.”
The Pentagon has said evacuations are expected to end within 36 hours and promised more details as they emerge.
“We can confirm that the explosion near the Abbey Gate of the Kabul airport has resulted in an unknown number of casualties,” Kirby said. “We will continue to update.”
Other nations are coordinating with the U.S. and working to keep as many safe as possible.
“Our primary concern remains the safety of our personnel, British citizens and the citizens of Afghanistan,” the United Kingdom Ministry of Defense said. “We are in close contact with our U.S. and other NATO allies at an operational level on the immediate response to this incident.”