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taliban seizes kabul

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Two bombs have struck the perimeter of Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport, as civilians continued to seek to escape on flights from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

At least 60 people have been killed and 140 others wounded.

The Pentagon confirmed US service personnel were among those killed – 11 US Marines and a Navy medic.

The bombings came hours after Western governments had warned their citizens to stay away from the airport, because of an imminent threat of an attack by IS-K, the Afghanistan branch of the Islamic State group.

The first explosion happened at about 18:00 local time, close to the Baron Hotel, near the airport’s perimeter.

The hotel was being used by British officials to process Afghans hoping to travel to the UK.

It was followed by gunfire and then a second explosion close to the Abbey Gate, one of the airport’s main entrances.

Reports say the second explosion took place near a sewage canal where Afghans were waiting to be processed, close to the gate, and that some victims were blown into the water.

According to an US official, at least one attacker had been wearing an explosive vest.

American and British troops had recently been deployed to guard the area around the Abbey Gate.

According to one account, one attacker fired into a crowd of people, although reports also said Taliban guards had fired into the air.

US citizens who had gone to the area around the airport had been warned before the attack to “leave immediately”.

Afghanistan: President Ashraf Afghani Flees Abroad as Taliban Seizes Kabul

The final number of US and Afghan – including Taliban – casualties remains unconfirmed.

However, the Pentagon said that 12 US military personnel had been killed and 15 injured.

Images being shared on social media show the injured being taken away in wheelbarrows.

Huge crowds had been gathering in the area, hoping to be accepted on to an evacuation flight.

The attack is likely to significantly complicate the effort to airlift thousands of people out of Afghanistan.

Before the attack, a number of countries including Germany, the Netherlands and Canada, had announced that they could no longer conduct flights.

Turkey has announced that its troops, who had been providing security at the airport for six years, were withdrawing.

The Taliban fighters entered Afghanistan’s capital Kabul and seized the presidential palace.

The government has collapsed, with President Ashraf Ghani fleeing abroad.

Kabul descended into chaos, as local residents and foreign nationals tried to escape.

For many Afghans it was a terrifying day that marked the return of Taliban rule almost 20 years after they were ousted by a US-led coalition.

Kabul was the last major city in Afghanistan to hold out against the Taliban offensive, which began months ago but has accelerated in the space of days.

The Taliban group was able to seize control now that foreign troops have all but withdrawn.

President Joe Biden has defended the withdrawal of American troops, saying he could not justify an “endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict”.

The Taliban ordered their fighters to enter Kabul on August 15, after earlier holding them back at the outskirts of the city.

The Taliban said the militants were going in to prevent chaos and looting after security forces left parts of Kabul.

Footage broadcast by Al Jazeera showed fighters inside the presidential palace, brandishing guns.

A spokesman for the group later told Al Jazeera: “The war is over.”

The Taliban’s advance into Kabul came after President Ghani fled. Details of his whereabouts remain unknown.

In a Facebook post addressed to Afghan citizens, President Ghani said he made the difficult decision to leave to avoid bloodshed in the capital city of six million people.

“The Taliban won victory in the judgment of sword and gun and they have responsibility to protect the honor, prosperity and self-respect of our compatriots,” he said.

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The president was criticized by other officials for leaving.

“God will hold him accountable and the nation will also judge,” said Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation.

There was panic in Kabul as the Taliban drew closer to victory. Residents headed for the airport, abandoning cars and making their way on foot in a desperate bid to get out of the country.

The US Embassy said there were reports of gunfire at Kabul’s airport, and warned its citizens to take shelter as “the security situation… is changing quickly”.

In the city center, large queues formed at ATMs throughout the day as people sought to withdraw cash.

There were reports of fighting and injuries in the city’s Qarabagh district.