News World Desperate search for Australians in Kabul after deadly blasts

Desperate search for Australians in Kabul after deadly blasts

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Officials are still seeking to confirm whether any Australian citizens or visa holders were injured in the Kabul airport bombings.

The desperate search for clarity comes amid fears more bombings are likely.

“Australia 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 said on Friday.

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

The blasts, attributed to terrorist organisation Islamic State Khorasan, killed more than 60 civilians and 13 US military personnel on Thursday (local time).

Video shot by Afghan journalists showed dozens of bodies strewn around a canal on the edge of the airport.

Islamic State, an enemy of the Taliban as well as the West, said one of its suicide bombers targeted “translators and collaborators with the American army”.

US officials also blamed the group and vowed retribution.

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

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

There are 2500 people staying at Australia’s Dubai air base and 783 have either come to Australia or other countries.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne warned of a high threat of further terror attacks, meaning Australian evacuation flights had ceased.

“We know that this is a very distressing situation for Australians still in Kabul, for people with visas and for families and friends who are here in Australia,” Senator Payne said.

Mr Morrison said further opportunities to get remaining Afghan visa holders out would be “very restricted”.

People were warned not to travel to Kabul airport but move to a safe location and register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade if they had not already done so.

Lawyer Glenn Kolomeitz said about 1000 embassy guards, interpreters and their families who helped Australian forces remained in Afghanistan.

He served in Afghanistan and represents hundreds of Afghans entitled to protection in Australia.

As far as he knew, none of his clients were caught up in the bombings.

An interpreter family got through the airport gates just before the attacks.

Defence Minister Peter Dutton signalled Australia would offer assistance to any US mission to hunt down the people behind the attacks.

“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 said.

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

US forces have also warned more attacks are likely. General Frank McKenzie, head of US Central Command, said US commanders were on alert for more attacks by Islamic State, including possibly rockets or vehicle-borne bombs targeting the airport.

“We’re doing everything we can to be prepared,” he said, adding that some intelligence was being shared with the Taliban and that he believed “some attacks have been thwarted by them”.

US forces are racing to complete their withdrawal from Afghanistan by an August 31 deadline set by President Joe Biden.

After Thursday’s deadly attacks, Mr Biden said he had ordered the Pentagon to plan how to strike ISIS-K, the Islamic State affiliate that claimed responsibility.

“We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay,” Mr Biden said during televised comments from the White House on Thursday.

Video taken in the aftermath of the attack showed corpses in a sewage canal by the airport fence, some being fished out and laid in heaps while wailing civilians searched for loved ones.

“I saw bodies and body parts flying in the air like a tornado blowing plastic bags,” said one Afghan witness.

“That little water flowing in the sewage canal had turned into blood.”

Zubair, a 24 year-old civil engineer, said he was close to a suicide bomber who detonated explosives.

“Men, women and children were screaming. I saw many injured people – men, women and children – being loaded into private vehicles and taken toward the hospitals,” he said.

A US Central Command spokesman said 18 soldiers injured in the attack were “in the process of being evacuated from Afghanistan on specially equipped C-17s with embarked surgical units”.

A Taliban official said at least 28 members of the militant group were killed in the attack.

“We have lost more people than the Americans in the airport blast,” he said, adding the Taliban was “not responsible for the chaotic evacuation plan prepared by foreign nations”.

The US would press on with evacuations despite the threat of further attacks, General McKenzie said, noting there were still about 1000 US citizens in Afghanistan.

The pace of evacuation flights had accelerated on Friday and American passport holders had been allowed to enter the airport compound, said a Western security official stationed inside the airport.

In the past 12 days, Western countries have evacuated nearly 100,000 people. But they acknowledge that thousands will be left behind when the last US troops leave at the end of the month.

-with AAP